I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 and 361 together.
My Department has every confidence that, through the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle the place of Geography will be retained and given a new impetus across the junior cycle curriculum. As part of the rollout of the new Framework for Junior Cycle, Geography was one of five new subject specifications that were introduced to schools in September 2018.
The new Framework for Junior Cycle gives students the opportunity to develop a wider range of knowledge and skills – to equip them for further learning, for work, for responsible and active citizenship, and for healthy living. It gives students better learning opportunities, and rewards and recognises non-academic performance and achievements, with a central focus on the student’s quality of life, wellbeing and mental health.
Prior to the introduction of the new Framework for Junior Cycle the status of Geography in junior cycle varied by school type. Geography was only a core subject in voluntary secondary schools (52% of schools).
It is important to note that currently some 92% of students across all schools choose to study Geography at Junior Cycle, although it is not compulsory in all schools. This is a clear indication that in respect of subjects like geography, schools make curricular decisions in the absence of directives and we expect this to continue.
There are no plans to make geography a mandatory subject in schools.