The New Primary Curriculum: What will the school day look like?

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since the completion of the last primary curriculum in Ireland. The release of a new primary curriculum framework, following several years of consultation, seeks to align with numerous changes and better equip children for the demands of the 21st century.

What are the key priorities driving this change? And how might they reshape the contemporary classroom?

  1. Foreign Languages: A notable shift is the heightened focus on foreign languages. Starting from third grade, students will receive one hour per week dedicated to learning a non-English or non-Irish language. The framework aims to transition from a mere “language awareness model” to a proficiency-based approach in the later years of primary education.
  2. STEM: Recognizing the growing significance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in enabling children to effectively engage with their environment, the curriculum dedicates increasing time to this area as students progress. Beginning with three hours per week in junior/senior infants, this time allocation expands to four hours weekly from third grade onward.
  3. Wellbeing It’s a growing concern among school principals and teachers alike: the increasing prevalence of emotional distress, anxiety, and mental health issues among students.Acknowledging this pressing issue, a substantial portion of the new curriculum will be dedicated to wellbeing. Starting from two and a half hours in junior/senior infants and expanding to three hours per week from first grade onward, this allocation underscores the importance of addressing and nurturing students’ emotional and mental health.

    The new curriculum will highlight arts education and “social and environmental education.” The latter aims to cultivate in children an “understanding and appreciation of their inherent rights and responsibilities as stewards of our planet.” Arts education encompasses “arts, drama, and music.”

    Primary curriculum framework – weekly time allocations:

    English: 3 hours 45 minutes

    Irish: 3 hours

    Foreign language: 1 hours

    Maths (including science, technology and engineering): 4 hours

    Wellbeing (including social & environmental education; arts education): 2 hours

    Flexible time: 1¾ hours

    Religious ethical and multi-belief and values: 1 hour 40 minutes

    Patron’s programme / faith formation: 2 hours

    Roll call/assembly: 1 hour 15 minutes

    Breaks: 50 minutes

    Recreation: 2 hour 30 minutes

    Source: NCCA Primary Curriculum Framework

    Note: The times, above, are for third to sixth class in an English-medium primary school. Different time allocations are outlined for junior to second class; and Irish-medium schools

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