Purpose of Aistear

Aistear is the curriculum framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. It provides information for adults to help them plan for and provide enjoyable and challenging learning experiences, so that all children can grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others. Aistear describes the types of learning (dispositions, values and attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understanding) that are important for children in their early years and offers ideas and suggestions as to how this learning might be nurtured.

The Framework also provides guidelines on supporting children’s learning through partnerships with parents, interactions, play, and assessment.

In supporting children’s early learning and development Aistear

  • identifies what and how children should learn, and describes the types of experiences that can support this

  • makes connections in children’s learning throughout the early childhood years and as they move from one setting to another

  • supports parents as their children’s primary educators during early childhood, and promotes effective partnerships between parents and practitioners

  • complements and extends existing curriculums and materials informs practice across a range of settings, disciplines and professions, and encourages interdisciplinary work.

Aistear is based on 12 principles of early learning and development. These are presented in three groups:

1. The first group concerns children and their lives in early childhood:

  • the child’s uniqueness

  • equality and diversity

  • children as citizens.

2. The second group concerns children’s connections with others:

  • relationships

  • parents, family and community

  • the adult’s role.

3. The third group concerns how children learn and develop:

  • holistic learning and development

  • active learning

  • play and hands-on experiences

  • relevant and meaningful experiences

  • communication and language

  • the learning environment.

Each principle is presented using a short statement. This is followed by an explanation of the principle from the child’s perspective. This explanation highlights the adult’s role in supporting children’s early learning and development.

Primary School


This school follows the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Guidelines for Pupils with General Learning Disabilities. These guidelines have educational aims for all pupils:

  • To nurture each child in all dimensions of his/her life

  • To enable each child to live a full life and to realise their full potential through access to a broad and balanced curriculum

  • To ensure that all pupils' needs and abilities can be addressed, the curriculum guidelines specify three levels of attainment:

  • Attending – pupils who are learning to attend, listen and watch

  • Responding – pupils who are learning to respond and react to things they feel, hear, see etc.

  • Initiating – pupils who are learning to do things on their own

The subject areas laid out in the curriculum are:

  • Communication and Language

  • Mathematics/ Thinking skills

  • Social, Environmental and Science Education (SESE)

  • Music/ Visual Arts/Drama

  • Physical Education

  • Social, Personal and Health Education

Below is a brief outline of the main aims of each subject area of the curriculum

Communication and Language

  • to learn to use the senses to become more aware of people, objects and activities in the environment

  • to learn to indicate needs and desires

  • to learn to communicate with intention

  • to make everyday choices

  • to learn to use a functional or augmentative system of communication e.g. Lámh signs, objects of reference, picture-symbols etc

Mathematics/ Thinking Skills

  • to learn to act purposefully on the environment

  • to understand the idea of cause and effect e.g. “I made that happen”

  • to develop an awareness of sequence in activities, the daily or weekly routine

  • the beginning of awareness of numbers and patterns

  • early problem-solving

SESE (Social, Environmental and Science Education)

  • History:

  • sense of passage of time throughout the day, week, year

  • sense of own personal history

  • learning to recall special personal events through stories, photos and video

  • Geography:

  • Activities to help find way around familiar environment

  • to learn to associate different places with different activities

  • to develop an awareness of weather and seasonal changes

  • Science:

  • to develop an awareness of plants and animals in the environment

  • to develop an awareness of elements such as hot and cold, bright and dark, heavy and light

Visual Arts

  • to have fun and explore a variety of attractive materials and equipment

  • to use the senses to explore and appreciate the beauty of the natural environment


  • to listen to and appreciate sounds in the environment

  • to enjoy making sounds and performing


  • to participate, take a turn and cooperate in group activities

  • to improve sensory awareness through experiencing a wide range of costumes, props, stories and poetry

Physical Education

  • to control and coordinate body movement

  • to learn to use new fine and gross motor skills

  • activities include physiotherapy, cycling, walking, standing, stretching, holding, reaching, dancing, swimming etc.

SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education)

  • Myself – how I look and what I can do

  • Myself and Others – my family and my friends

  • Myself and the Wider World – my school, my local community


Post Primary



The Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) is a national programme under the auspices of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST). Currently, the programme is offered in 223 schools throughout the country. JCSP operates within the Junior Certificate/ Cycle curriculum. It follows the curriculum framework set out for the Junior Certificate/Cycle, which is re-focused to cater for JCSP students.

It is an intervention into the Junior Certificate/Cycle and not an alternative to it. It helps to make the curriculum accessible and relevant to young people who would benefit from a different approach to the Junior Certificate/Cycle.

The JCSP approach involves:

  • analysing students’ strengths and weaknesses and taking note of any specific recurring difficulties.

  • planning programmes of work which both build on students’ abilities and address the main obstacles which hinder their progress.

  • engaging in dialogue with young people and their parents regarding their needs and their progress in school

The content of the courses which JCSP students follow emphasise skills, knowledge and concepts selected from Junior Certificate/ Cycle subject syllabi and subject specifications which best explore the aptitudes and abilities of these young peoples’ key skills, knowledge and concepts which are essential for students’ progress in all areas of the curriculum.

The Programme is designed to ensure that these young people can benefit from their time in school and enjoy the experience of improvement and success. It does this by providing a curriculum framework which will assist schools and individual teachers in adopting a student-centred approach to education and in providing students with a programme to meet their individual needs.


The Junior Certificate School Programme attempts to help young people experience success and develop a positive self-image by providing a curriculum and assessment framework suitable to their needs. The programme aims to ensure that students actively participate in their learning, make progress and build on their achievements. The programme also aims to develop students’ literacy, numeracy, communication and group work skills. On completion of the programme, students receive a profile which is an official record of their achievements from the Department of Education and Skills.

Picture6Junior Cycle Level 1 & 2 Learning Programmes

Level 1 Learning Programmes will target the very specific group of students with general learning disabilities in the range of lower functioning moderate to severe and profound categories. The programme will be capable of personalisation to suit the individual needs of the target group of students.

The Level 1 Learning Programmes are made up of six Priority Learning Units (PLUs) which explicitly identify and develop the key areas of learning needed to prepare the students for their future lives.

  1. Communication, Language and Literacy

  2. Personal Care and Wellbeing

  3. Being part of a Community

  4. Numeracy

  5. The Arts

  6. Physical Education

This programme is currently being trialled in a small number of schools for Pupils with Severe & Profound General Learning Disabilities

NCCA Junior Cycle Level 2 Learning Programmes

A Level 2 Learning Programme targets the very specific group of students with general learning disabilities in the higher functioning moderate and low functioning mild categories.

 These students all have student support plans. The Level 2 Learning Programme will be based around Priority Learning Units (PLUs).

The PLUs focus on developing the basic social, pre-vocational and life skills of the students involved. There are five Level 2 PLUs:

  1. Communicating and literacy

  2. Numeracy

  3. Personal care

  4. Living in a community

  5. Preparing for work



QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) – Levels 1-3

Level 1

The learning outcomes relate to the performance of basic tasks in a controlled environment under supervision and the display of an ability to learn information and basic repetitive skills, as well as to sequence learning tasks. Literacy and numeracy achievements would correspond to those measured

at the initial levels of international assessment systems.

Level 2

Key outcomes at this level are basic literacy and numeracy and the introduction to systematic learning. Learning outcomes relate to the ability to learn new skills and knowledge in a supervised

environment and to carry out routine work under direction. Learning outcomes at this level are typically developmental rather than geared towards a specific occupation.

Level 3

Learning outcomes at this level relate to a low volume of practical capability and of knowledge of theory. The outcomes relate to the performance of relatively simple work and may be fairly quickly acquired. Outcomes at this level may also confer a minimum employability for low skilled occupations and include functional literacy and numeracy.

Source: Outline National Framework of Qualifications - Determinations

These broad statements are guides for learners, advisors, providers and where appropriate, employers in understanding what a person with a qualification at these levels has achieved. The levels are described in terms of general (i.e. non-subject specific) indicators of a person’s knowledge, skill and competence (i.e. standards for their learning achievements).