We were delighted to hear that Minister for Education Joe Mc Hugh has decided to reintroduce History as a special status subject at Junior Cycle, and it was very exciting for us at the Allingham Festival to learn that last year's festival had a part to play in his decision!
Mr. McHugh is going against the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which maintains History should remain an optional subject in the Junior Cycle. Awarding it Special Status means it will be studied by all student in Junior Cycle, just like the core subjects English, Irish and Maths.
Yesterday morning on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1, Ryan asked the Minister what made him change his mind on this matter and overturn the NCCA decision. Mr Mc Hugh explained that he had heard a great deal of opposition from all corners of society on the plan, and cited one particular conversation he had at one of our cross-border schools events last year.
"One of the biggest impacts was a young man from Enniskillen, St. Michael’s in Enniskillen, and we were at a cross border event in Ballyshannon one day and he came up to me and he says 'Excuse me Minister,' he was very polite, 'Would you mind me asking why are you downgrading the subject of history in the Junior Cycle?' so there was somebody who wasn’t involved directly in the curriculum but he got the importance of history."
Minister Mc Hugh had visited a Sligo IT Creative Writing Workshop held in Coláiste Cholmcille that morning, before meeting students from Ballyshannon and Enniskillen in the Abbey Arts Centre, who had come together for a talk by Niall Mac Monagle on Art & Poetry. Minister Mc Hugh casually chatted to students from both sides of the border, and took questions from the floor.
We're delighted that one of our events has had any sort of an impact on public policy, and helped bring History back to the Junior Cycle at a time of great upheaval in politics and society around the world...and it's worth pointing out that this came out of an Arts event.
Listen Back on the RTÉ Radio Player - interview begins at 1:55