Curriculum in primary schools
Under the Education Act 1998, the Minister for Education may set down the curriculum for recognised schools. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is a statutory body, whose function is to advise the Minister of Education and Skills in matters relating to the curriculum for early childhood education, primary and post-primary schools, and the assessment procedures employed in schools and examinations on subjects that are part of the curriculum. This includes the subjects to be offered, the syllabus for each subject and the guidance and counselling provision to be offered.
Under the Education Act 1998 the Minister:
- Must take into account the desirability of helping schools to provide other subjects that the Board of Management thinks are appropriate
- Must take into account the ethos of the school
- Can give directions to schools to ensure that the subjects and syllabuses are appropriate and relevant to the educational and vocational needs of those schools
- Must ensure that the amount of instruction time given to curriculum subjects is sufficient to allow for reasonable instruction in subjects that are related to the ethos of the school
- Must not force any student to attend classes in any subject that clashes with the beliefs of the parents.
Content of curriculum
The revised primary school curriculum was introduced into national schools in 1999. It consists of 6 curriculum areas that are further divided into 11 subjects. These are:
- Language: Gaeilge (pdf), English (pdf)
- Mathematics: Mathematics (pdf)
- Social, Environmental and Scientific Education: History (pdf), Geography (pdf), Science (pdf)
- Arts Education: Music (pdf), Visual Arts (pdf), Drama (pdf)
- Physical Education: Physical Education (pdf)
- Social Personal and Health Education: Social, Personal and Health Education (pdf)
There are guidelines on the time to be allocated to each of the curriculum areas.
Aims of curriculum
The aims of the curriculum are to ensure that all children are provided with learning opportunities that recognise and celebrate their uniqueness, develop their full potential. The focus is on the child as learner, and the use of a variety of teaching methodologies is an essential feature of the curriculum.
The curriculum emphasises the need for greater attention to be paid to students with special educational needs and emphasises the importance of achieving functional literacy and numeracy. It also draws attention to the needs of gifted children.
The Department of Education provides answers to frequently asked questions about the curriculum in primary schools.
Under Article 22 of the Education Act schools are obliged to "regularly evaluate students and periodically report the results of the evaluation to the students and their parents". In general children's learning and achievement are regularly assessed in primary schools using a variety of tests and other methods. Circular 0138/2006 Supporting Assessment in Primary School, states how assessment should carried out. From 2007 all Irish primary schools must administer standardised tests in English and mathematics to their pupils twice during their primary school years as follows:
- At the end of first class or at the beginning of second class and
- At the end of fourth class or at the beginning of fifth class.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has published Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools (pdf). It has also published explanatory leaflets for parents about the standardised tests.
The structure of the curriculum
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) provides information for parents that provides an outline of the broad content and emphases in the curriculum, as well as advice on how parents can support teaching and learning at home and in school.
Support for the Primary School Curriculum Programme
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment was established as a statutory body in July 2001. Its function is to advise the Minister of Education and Skills in matters relating to the curriculum for early childhood education, primary and post-primary schools, and the assessment procedures employed in schools and examinations on subjects that are part of the curriculum. This includes the subjects to be offered, the syllabus for each subject and the guidance and counselling provision to be offered.
Professional development service
The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) in primary schools includes and develops the work of the former Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and School Development Planning Support (SDPS). PPDS advisors work with schools supporting individual teachers, groups of teachers and whole staffs in implementation of the primary school curriculum and in organisational and development planning.
School development planning
Planning is a statutory requirement for schools under Section 21 of the Education Act 1998. Every school is required to have a school plan and the boards of management are given responsibility for ensuring that the plan is prepared, reviewed and regularly updated. A school plan deals with the curriculum and with the organisation of all the school's resources, including staff, space, facilities, equipment, time and finance. It also includes the school's policies on a range of administrative and organisational issues and, where appropriate, the school's strategies for implementing official guidelines and regulations. Information about school development planning in primary schools is available from the Primary Professional Development Service - see 'Where to apply' below.
Where to apply