Wellbeing classes to take place in Irish schools from September

As part of the changes, the number of subjects students can take will be capped

Wellbeing classes to take place in Irish schools from September

Junior Certificate students wait to sit their exams in 2015 | Image: RollingNews.ie

First year senior school students are to be given wellbeing classes from September.

Students are to learn the knowledge, attitudes and skills to enable them to protect and promote their own wellbeing and that of others.

The wellbeing programme will see 300 hours of timetabled learning over the three years of the junior cycle.

This will build up to 400 hours by 2020, as the new junior cycle is implemented.

The four main pillars of the programme are Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), Physical Education (PE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and guidance education.

Schools can be flexible when planning their programme, as other subjects, short courses and units of learning can also contribute.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) says: "Developing good relationships in the classroom and throughout the school are essential for students’ wellbeing and for effective teaching and learning.

"When students feel included, respected and listened to, they are more ready to learn and more successful in their learning.

"Wellbeing matters not only because it leads to students doing better at school but it can also influence young people’s outcomes as adults."

Betty McLaughlin is the team leader for WellBeing at Junior Cycle for Teachers.

She told Jonathan Healy on the Pat Kenny Show: "Wellbeing is at the core of junior cycle and the vision for junior cycle is to raise their self-esteem and to help them to cope and to give them the skills that they need... it's a new shift in education".

"We're bringing the student voice to the fore in the new educations system where students will be centre-stage, where they will be able to express their feelings better and they will anticipate better".

Subject cap

She says this new approach will not take away from core subjects: "The first thing that we will be doing in the junior cycle in looking after students wellbeing is limiting their subjects - the amount of subjects they take - to 10.

"Up to now there has been no limit on the amount of subjects that a student can take, and really that's not looking after their wellbeing".

Ms McLaughlin denied that the wellbeing approach is taking away from real life experience: "This is about wellbecoming, it's telling students that it's OK not to be OK.

"They are going to have good days and bad days... we have a central role to play in education to teach students to build their self-esteem, to build their confidence and to equip them with the skills that they need to go out in the world.

"That is the one thing that employers tell us about the Irish students: that they're highly academic, but that they don't have the skills of self-motivation when they come in, that they need to be mentored and tutored and brought along, and they don't act on their own initiative.

"The new wellbeing programme will absolutely be encouraging students... to equip students to meet those gaps and to fill those gaps and to make them more confidence in themselves when they walk out to face the world".