Junior cycle (lower secondary education) lies within the compulsory period of education and is usually taken by pupils between the ages of 12 and 15. The aims and intended outcomes of junior cycle emphasise the importance of students experiencing a broad, balanced and coherent programme of study across a wide range of curriculum areas in order to prepare them for transition to senior cycle education. This is achieved by ensuring that students encounter an educational programme that covers a number of areas of experience.

PE (non-exam)
Computer Studies
SPHE (non-exam)
Option Subjects

Option Subjects offered may vary from year to year depending on the needs and the resources within the school. Students study TWO subjects from the choices below:

German, French or Spanish

Art or Business Studies

Areas of experience

Language Literature and Communication

It is through language that students learn about themselves, others and the world around them. It is the key to learning and is supported across a wide range of curriculum contexts. Through language development they develop critical and cultural awareness

Mathematical Studies and Applications

This area of experience supports the development of awareness of patterns and relationships in shape and number as well as skills in estimation and measurement. It is encountered across a wide range of curriculum contexts. At the heart of this area of experience is the skill of problem-solving.

Science and Technology

This area of experience brings the students into contact with the world around them, and invites them to discover, understand and manipulate the processes which drive it. It supports the development of inquiry and curiosity as well as creativity and ingenuity

Social, Political and Environmental Education

Students learn about the physical, social and cultural forces which have shaped the world in which they live and discover how they will contribute to shaping the lives of future generations

Arts Education

Through this area of experience pupils can develop practical and perceptual skills which promote intellectual and aesthetic development. Curriculum in support of this will emphasise reflection and self-expression and the acquisition of critical skills

Physical Education

The physical and mental well being of pupils can be supported through this area of experience. Pupils can develop and practise physical skills, participate in individual and team activities and learn how to set and reach challenging goals.

Religious and Moral Education

This area of experience brings the pupils into contact with questions of meaning, purpose and value, and provides opportunities for reflecting on how contemporary society, and previous generations have engaged with these questions.

Guidance, Counselling and Pastoral Care

A wide range of personal and social skills is associated with this area of experience which focuses on the pupils’ own lives as young people and their future lives as adults in society.

Programmes of study

The programme of study followed in junior cycle varies. Almost all student take courses leading to the Junior Certificate, the State examination taken at the end of the third year of junior cycle when pupils are 15 years of age. In addition students are eligible to participate in an additional reward the Junior Cycle School Programme Award (JCSP).


The NCCA undertakes review of junior cycle on a continuous basis. Currently there are several strands to this review, including initiatives related to assessment for learning, transition from primary to post-primary school, and curriculum overload/overlap. In addition, a number of general areas of work within the NCCA have relevance for junior cycle review. These include developments in the areas of Information and Communications Technology, Special Educational Needs and Intercultural Education.Documentation

The booklet: A Brief Description of the Irish Education System published by the Department of Education and Science contains a useful overview of junior cycle education and the education system in general.Source: NCCA National Council for Curriculum and Assessment:www.ncca.ie
Related links
Junior Certificate
Junior Certificate Syllabuses and Guidelines for Teachers
Junior Certificate School Programme
Junior Cycle Review(Source: NCCA)