Junior Cycle history: ‘Good use of sources, but students suffer from lack of choice’

‘In the absence of a marking scheme, students may not know how much to focus on each question’

The common-level Junior Cycle history paper had good variety and made good use of sources, but the agency of students is being taken away because they have to answer all questions, a history teacher has said.

Philip Irwin, ASTI subject representative and a teacher at The High School in Rathgar, Dublin 6, said that the lack of choice on the paper – the only option on the paper allows students to pick between the first World War and second World War – creates a high bar to students aiming for a distinction.

“There are eight main questions on the paper,” he said.

“The documents questions, including one on Hadrian’s Wall, were very good, and students would have dealt with primary and secondary sources. A question on the famine contained terms and explanations, and there was a good map showing how the potato blight spread.


“There was also a strong question on Tomi Reichental, who survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and came to live in Ireland in 1959. I particularly liked the question on how the Nazis also persecuted other groups besides Jewish people.

“There was a good question documenting deaths during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Irwin said that, in the absence of a marking scheme on the paper, students may not know how much to focus on each question and how much to write.

Both the ASTI and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland have consistently raised concerns about the new junior cycle papers, where students have no choice about what to answer and which do not contain marking schemes.

Try this one at home:

– Junior Cycle history, common level

Write an account of the religious reformer you studied for your Junior Cycle history course. Your answer could include details such as: the main actions of the reformer; the religious beliefs of the reformer; changes introduced by the reformer