Mr Stephen McArdle (Junior Cycle, First to Third Years)
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The English courses in St Andrew’s College are designed to meet the requirements of the Irish Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate programmes, or the International Baccalaureate programme.
Students in First Year are placed in their form group classes and remain in these mixed ability groups through to Transition Year. First to third-year English classes follow the Higher Level Junior Cycle programme until students have taken the trial Junior Cycle exams in February of their third year. After this exam a small number of students may opt to follow the Ordinary Level syllabus. A school-based assessment of students’ skills, knowledge and understanding are formally assessed twice over this period: at the end of Second Year and mid-way through Third Year.
There are eight teachers of Transition Year who work in pairs to provide two modules: August to December, and January to May. The modules aim to consolidate the tasks learned for the Junior Cycle and to introduce the Leaving Certificate course. Each individual teacher may select the syllabus for his / her own module but each pair of teachers between them cover poetry, fiction, drama, film, and creative writing.
In Fifth and Sixth Year, students choose to follow either the Leaving Certificate programme or the International Baccalaureate course. For the Leaving Certificate course students are banded according to their ability. Special provision can be made for sixth-year students who wish to take the Ordinary Level course.
The English Department hopes that the courses provided in language and literature help students to improve their communication skills and increase their confidence in self-expression, to acquire an understanding and appreciation of literature, to enjoy reading and the theatre, and to establish a sound basis for literary judgment.
In addition to teaching the required programmes, the English teachers supplement and enhance the students’ experience of this subject by organising activities such as visits to the theatre and cinema, inviting guest speakers / authors to the school, and encouraging students to write for St Andrew’s publications such as The Wine-Dark Sea and Grapevine, the creative writing journal and magazine.
Members of the English Department co-ordinate the St Andrew’s College Arts Week. The main event is a one-act drama festival in which other schools are invited to take part. Students are encouraged to take part in Literature Aloud, a competition for which they must learn and speak a minimum of three pieces of literature from their course. The winners from this event take part in the National Poetry Aloud competition held in the National Library in May. A Poetry Aloud club is held once a week to prepare students for this prestigious event.
Students are encouraged to enter writing competitions and have frequently won prestigious prizes. Several former students are published authors. In recent years these include Zlata Filipovic and Ruth Gilligan. A creative writing club is held once a week during break-time to encourage students in this regard.
Debating in St Andrew’s is catered for by Debate Club, the MUN and MEP. Several members of the department are involved in these, giving students the opportunity to research topical issues, prepare debate topics, write resolutions, listen with respect to the opinions of others and to have their own views heard at home and abroad.
All in all, the English Department teachers are dedicated, hardworking and enthusiastic in their approach. There is a strong sense of collegiality within the department and a commitment to creating the best possible environment for both learning and teaching.