Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD says Minister Richard Bruton needs to be honest with parents and students regarding his proposals for Junior Certificate reform.

Deputy Byrne made the comments as many schools are only now becoming aware that they will have to reduce the number of hours spent teaching other than English, Maths and Irish to facilitate the introduction of a wellbeing class. However the majority of wellbeing is essentially just a repackaging of the CSPE, PE and SPHE classes which are already thought in schools.

Deputy Byrne said, “Earlier this year we heard through the media that Minister Bruton was seeking to implement a radical new wellbeing class to help students prepare for challenges outside of the classroom environment and to help facilitate discussions around issues such as mental health and physical wellbeing. I accept that this is badly needed, however the full details of its full implementation have been hidden until now.

“Parents and students were genuinely excited by this news as they thought the Government was delivering a radical new class which would benefit them throughout their lives. However now we have learned the specific proposals for this new wellbeing class and they leave a lot to be desired. Essentially Minister Bruton has embarked on a mission to repackage the existing CSPE, PE and SPHE classes without actually introducing the radical new changes that were discussed earlier in the year. It’s deeply disappointing and parents and children feel genuinely let down by the Minister.

“What’s even more alarming is the fact that other important classes are losing teaching time in order to facilitate the introduction of this repackaged class. There will be 3 fewer classes per week to facilitate the teaching of sciences and modern languages such as French and German. Schools will no longer be able to teach additional classes in these subjects under the new curriculum specification as they cannot teach more than 200 hours over 3 years.

“Minister Bruton has misled people by not admitting that hours or time spent teaching academic subjects will be cut to facilitate the introduction of his repackaged wellbeing class. It seems ridiculous that subjects such as German and French are set to lose classes at a time when research consistently shows that we need to be increasing the hours devoted to teaching modern languages.

“It’s time for Minister Bruton to be honest with parents and students over his proposals for Junior Cert reform. Repackaging existing classes does not constitute radical reform,” conclude Deputy Byrne.