Donal_OMahony - Association of Community and

Portmarnock Community School
Donal O’ Mahony
Some history
 Portmarnock Community School became an NCCA Junior
Cycle network school in May 2012
 I am the Link-teacher
 I presented about the possibilities involved with Junior
Cycle reform to my colleagues in September 2012
 In Portmarnock there seemed to be a lot of interest in
Short Course development
Why this interest?
 A strong history of innovation in Transition-year e.g.
Photography, Heritage, Film, Animation, English, History...
 A confidence and capacity to introduce new and innovative
methods of teaching
 Junior Cycle reform – an opportunity to mainstream from
Transition-year to the Junior Cycle – material however
must be re-modelled for the younger students, taking into
account the principles of the Junior Cycle Framework
J.C. 2.0
 Online support network
 I was very active in this during 2012/2013
 Noticed that many Link schools were working with
their strengths
We promised
 Support to teachers: In-house staff development
particularly in the area of Key Skills
 November 2012: Denise Kelly from the National
Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)
presented in the school to about fifteen teachers (who
volunteered) on Short Course development
 Very well received – learned a lot
We lead...
 Management and I are very supportive of the move
from product to process in relation to learning
 Wanted to develop the students appreciation of the
“how” and “why” of learning over a period of time
 This was a rationale we brought to the table at all
We asked...
 Teachers to volunteer to develop their own Short
 This was at a time when the NCCA had subject titles
for their for Short Courses but no developed ones as
such (not the case now)
 The NCCA had a template however which was (is)
what the teachers worked off
Areas to be covered
1. Introduction to Junior Cycle: Standard for all short
2. Rationale: Setting the course in the broader context
3. Aim
4. Links: Statements of Learning / Literacy and Numeracy /
Key Skills
5. Course Overview
6. Expectations for Students
7. Assessment and Certification
8. Resources
 Some teachers worked as a Group
 Some alone and then consulted each other
 Denise Kelly (NCCA) was available for advice via email.
I was the conduit as the Link-teacher
 Three Short Courses emerged – Media literacy,
Animation, Robotics....
 Early January 2013
 Principal, Deputy Principal, Link-teacher and our
 Go with two Short-courses? Yes
 Which ones? Animation and Media Literacy
Why these two?
 The Robotics Short Course was not fully finished
 Animation had been highly developed in Transition year
 Animation and Media Literacy very much complemented
each other - Good mix of ideas – teachers saw possibilities
between the subjects
 Attractive to boys and girls
Where on the timetable?
 Within an existing block
 No change to the structure of the timetable as such
 Treading slowly...
 Students have to do both Media Literacy and Animation
 One double each – for three years (c. 120 hours each)
 Block with Materials Technology (Wood), Home-
Economics and Technology
 An option block that allowed corresponding subjects to be
taken in 4th / 5th Year
 Banding meant two class groups – offered it to one class in
the band
 Twenty-four students
 School certificate at end of Third-year (2016)
 Assessment focus in Second and Third-year
 There was a very strong presentation to the parents
and guardians of the incoming Sixth-class (January
 Covered a lot of positives about Junior Cycle reform
and education in general
 Minimised the use of the phrase Short Course and
looked at it as the introduction of a new subject
 Our choice of Animation and Media Literacy reflects
what is relevant to real-world needs and experience
Digital Animation and Media
 A draw from the hat if oversubscribed...
 67 students applied
Lessons learned
 A lot of work (time) developing in-house short courses –
teachers found the Short Course Template a challenge, but
fulfilling when completed
 Reliance on one teacher – what if our animator leaves?
 Need for digital resources – Broadband and Wi-Fi
 Need for some updated training in Animation – speed of
change of applications
 Implications for numbers in the other subjects in the block
Lessons learned
 The need for technical backup – in our case relying on
a technically literate teacher to manage software
updates for the animation teacher
 Using First-year to establish the Group-work and other
skills – no assessment focus is of great value
 Need for space for conversation with fellow Short
Course teachers.
Lessons Learned
 Don’t presume that because students opt for a course
that they have certain competencies
 A hard-sell to establish the course identity – keep
trying to establish the Short Course / new subject
identity – do things to highlight the course – at
Assemblies, on the website etc.
 Don’t underestimate students either – confidence built
during First-year is now becoming obvious
2013 / 2014 Context has changed
 NCCA has drafts of eight short-courses for incoming 2014
First-years – consultation process in place
 Portmarnock teacher s involvement with the NCCA,
examining aspects of teaching and learning the Coding
Short Course
 Portmarnock P.E. teachers exploring possibilities with the
Physical Education Association of Ireland and the draft
Physical Education Short Course - One P.E. Teacher has
developed a Sports Science module in Transition Year
2013 / 2014
 Decided to introduce two new short courses
 To spread the load amongst a variety of teachers /
subject areas
 In the same block
 Offered to both bands
 A minimum of 48 students
2013 / 2014
 Coding – as per the NCCA draft short course
specification – two teachers
 Sports science – at the request of a member of the P.E.
Department, who has developed his own Sports
Science course in Transition Year – two teachers
Current teacher concerns
 Sports Science – to develop a separate identity from
the existing Junior Cycle P.E. classes
 Timetabling needs around Sports Science
 Assessment in general and assessing our own students
in particular and exploring external moderation
Other Concerns
 Costs associated with these courses – can students asked to
pay for swimming? Buses for external trips...
 Any formal funding for running Short Courses from the
NCCA or others?..... Saving money one way, so give us
money another way
 Do we need to look for sponsorship?
 Do we need to develop linkages with a University who will
work with us as a local-school?
Other concerns
 Collect feedback from current First-year parents
 If we go with Robotics in 2015 / 2016, what subject
would we place with it so as to attract the balance of
boys and girls?
 What do parents think of the changing of the Short
Course subjects each year?
 What are the implications for Transition Year?
 We are conscious we have got the Short Courses off the
ground in a creative way – now want to get the
assessment right
 Support for Assessment – Short Course Assessment
training for teachers
 We would like Portmarnock to get support from the
NCCA in developing this, not alone for the Short
Course teachers, but for all teachers in the school

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