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Minister Bruton announces launch of School Excellence Fund – Step Up Project – Department of Education and Skills

Nine schools from across the country have been chosen to participate in the school improvement programme. St Louis was chosen as a reult of its effective practice in the delivery of the New Junior Cycle programme. 

Department Press Release: 

“The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D.,  announced the launch of the School Excellence Fund – Step Up Project last Friday in Athlone.

Nine schools from across the country are participating in the initial pilot phase taking place over the coming school year.

The Step Up Project focuses on supporting schools to ‘step up’ in the delivery of the new junior cycle programme. Schools will work together and will be supported by the Inspectorate, who will help with planning and the JCT, who will provide additional teacher training.

The School Excellence Fund approach, which focuses on encouraging local collaboration and innovation, is key to delivering on the governments overall ambition to making Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

Teachers from each school participated in an opening seminar in Athlone last Friday, where they met with members of JCT and the Inspectorate to refine their Step Up Project plan for the year ahead.

Making the announcement, Minister Bruton said, “The opportunity provided by the Step Up Project will empower participating schools to move to highly effective practice in their implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle. In this way, they will impact positively on student learning and their experience will be used to support other schools as they engage in Junior Cycle reform. I welcome the collaboration of the Inspectorate and Junior Cycle for Teachers in facilitating appropriate and effective professional learning for the schools in this initial stage of the project”.

It is timely that an opportunity be provided for schools to reflect on teaching, learning, assessment and reporting in these three subject areas and to identify how the quality of provision and implementation, both for those specific subjects and for the overall Framework for Junior Cycle, can be raised to the highest level.

Schools participating in the project are required to take a school self-evaluation approach in reviewing their current implementation of the Framework in one or more of three subject areas: English, Business Studies and Science. Schools will be encouraged to identify areas for improvement and will be supported in developing and implementing actions leading to improvement in their chosen areas. Learning from the project will be disseminated to all schools.”

Deputy Principal Mary Gilmore who attended last week’s event along with staff members Róisín Mallon and Anne Marie Kirk is delighted that we have been chosen to participate in the project. “This is a wonderful endorsement of the whole school’s engagement with the New Junior Cycle programme. We are delighted to be given the opportunity to work with the inspectorate to ensure the learning experience for St Louis girls is of the highest calibre.”

Pictured below are: AnneMarie Kirk, Science teacher St Louis Dundalk, Dr David King, JCT, Róisín Mallon, Business teacher St Louis Dundalk, Sinéad Tuphy, Co-ordinator of Step Up Project JCT, Mary Gilmore, Deputy Principal St Louis Dundalk, Eoghan Evesson, Deputy Director JCT, and Emma Gallagher, JCT.

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Embedding the New Junior Cycle in our School

St Louis Secondary school Dundalk recently held an information evening for parents on the changes involved in assessment and reporting in the new Junior Cycle including the role of Wellbeing. Parents/Guardians of 1st, 2nd and 3rd were invited to attend to receive clarification around the changes and how exactly it will affect their daughters depending on their stage in the ongoing process.

The event was hosted by the school’s parents’ committee who arrange an annual talk for parents based on issues raised at their monthly meetings. The relevance of Junior Cycle reform as an issue for parents was underlined by the large number of families represented and their engagement on the night, asking questions about the vision underpinning the new curriculum and how they can actively support their daughters.

The new Junior Cycle has been up and running since September 2014 when the first cohort of 1St Year started on the new English subject specification. In June 2017 these students sat the new Junior Cycle Final Assessment in English heralding the beginning of the new and end of the old in state examinations for Junior Cycle students. These students will be the first to receive the new Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement later this year which will also report on examples of other learning experiences students have been involved with throughout their three years of Junior Cycle. Since then other subjects have come on board and these include Business and Science for current 2nd Years and Art, Irish, Modern Foreign Languages (to include French, Spanish, German and Italian) for current 1st years. The process continues until 2022 when all subject specifications in the new Junior Cycle will finally replace the old Junior Certificate.  Wellbeing has also been introduced as a compulsory component for Junior Cycle students from this year also. Students also do Classroom Based Assessments in all subjects in Junior Cycle which are school based and which will in time replace traditional end of term assessments, the results of which will also appear on The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement

 

Ms Gilmore, Acting Deputy Principal and Ms Dolan, Acting Principal outlined the planned changes, the motivation for change and how positive encouragement from parents across the country could make the change more effective. They explained how formative assessment would point out to students exactly what they needed to do to improve rather than just reporting a grade or level without effective feedback. They linked the relevance of this style of learning to the key skills required in the 21st Century and to third level study, demonstrating how new methods of imparting knowledge and skill would be excellent preparation for work and life-long learning.  Inclusive education was also explored and the central role of developing high levels of wellbeing in all students under the knowledge that: ” happy students learn better”

To further the concept of Wellbeing, an area with a lot of emphasis in the new Junior Cycle, Parents were given specific feedback from data gathered by Ms J Spain of the PE Dept. around levels of activity and nutrition among our students. A whole school survey at the start of the year enabled important data to be collected about students’ well-being including what they are eating and how often they are participating in the recommended 60 mins of physical activity every day. Ms Spain outlined the role parents play in promoting activities and supporting students to make healthy food and treat choices. Parents in the audience suggested closer links with local sporting clubs and organisations and agreed that exercising with their daughters would be a great way to promote healthy living and keep the lines of communication open during teenage years.

There was a wonderful sense of community and partnership with all the adults present taking ownership of the work to be done to support and nurture the students on their journey through Junior Cycle and beyond.

With this level of teamwork and support, the girls in St Louis can achieve the highest possible levels of happiness and academic success.

Click on the link below for a copy of the presentation given on the night.

Junior Cycle Parents Presentation St Louis Dundalk