Clearing the head in Dun Laoghaire before diving into this topic

Like nearly every other Modern Foreign Language teacher I have spoken to since the introduction of the Junior Cycle specifications for MFL, I am stressed by and struggling with a programme about which I don’t have enough information, and what I do know and see does not convince me that it is the best thing for our students. But, as we were told in our school by Junior Cycle facilitators, it’s here to stay so we’d better knuckle down and get on with it.

When I attended the PDST MFL Alive conference in September 2018, I was quite disturbed by the fear and worry evident in the room among the 200 attendees, and by the way their concern was dealt with by the MFL facilitators. As I said on Twitter after the conference, it’s a tough job to try to sell the new Junior Cycle, but there must be some recognition by the Junior Cycle team that teachers are worried and they are not getting enough information. Unfortunately that worry and fear is most often transmitted as anger, and when it’s met with similar anger or disdain, nobody wins.

The difficulty is that the training we have received has not dealt fully with our concerns, it has not told us what we need to prepare our students for, and it has ended with a cheery “it’s all on the website.” To most of the us, that doesn’t feel like enough support, especially when the websites we are referred to are not particularly user-friendly and when you only find out about events if you are on Twitter (here’s the JCT MFL twitter account), which many MFL teachers are not.

As I sat there in the PDST MFL Alive conference, I wondered was there any small thing I could do to help my colleagues across the country. So this is my tiny attempt to do so: to make some sense of what’s “on the website”, and collect the documents in an easily accessible way.

I’m absolutely not an expert on the Junior Cycle, though I have been watching closely since it was introduced, in a personal capacity and as President of the Association of Teachers of Spanish. So I’m not mouthing-off or Junior Cycle-bashing here, I made my views known in a private capacity as well as contributing to the ATS submission when the consultation was open, though how much of what was submitted was considered, taken on board and/or dismissed, I guess we’ll never know.

I decided to break my original very long post into a series of smaller ones, just to make it easier for future reference for my readers and for editing and updating.

This post then, is to share why I’m doing this, and a few of the basics about the new Junior Cycle. I’ll follow it up with different posts on CPD, planning, and assessment. I’m very willing to add other documents and resources if you think I’ve left something out, or that I’ve included something that’s out-of-date.

For starters, going back to 2015, here’s the  Junior Cycle Framework Document which was received with only a few waves, when many teachers didn’t realise just what was coming down the line! It’s one of the last documents of which we actually received a paper copy rather than being told to seek it out on a website. In it you can read about the philosophy behind the new Junior Cycle.

Here’s the CEFR descriptors, which underpin the new Junior Cycle.

As you know from the Cluster Day, we are now to work as MFL Departments rather than single subjects. Here’s some suggestions for how to use the 22 hours of professional time that all teachers should now have in their timetable.

Finally, if you are not on the MFL mailing list, here’s the link to sign up. I thought I was on the list but I didn’t receive any emails last year. Then, with GDPR, you were actually required to sign up again, so even if you thought you were signed up, it’s worth adding your name again.

I hope this mini series of posts is useful. Do get in touch if you think there’s anything else I should include.


  1. Hey Susan. I’m in Madrid Barajas waiting for a flight. Thought I’d use the extra time to read through your blog. It’s been on my things to do list this mid-term. Gracias.

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