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Curriculum Development


About the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU)

The Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) came into existence in 1972 through the sponsorship of three agencies namely the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC) represented by Jeremiah Sheehan CEO, Trinity College Dublin represented by Prof Val Rice and Brian Powell and the Dept. of Education (DES) represented by the assistant secretary Sean O Connor.


On 7th April 1972 the Unit’s Steering Committee held its first meeting adopting the provisions of the “Proposal for the Joint Curriculum Development Project for Junior Cycle Post-Primary Courses”. During 1972 the project was approved by the CDVEC committee in February, by the Board and Council of Trinity College in May and finally by the Dept. of Education in December with a remit to extend the work to include non CDVEC schools.


In 1978 the CDU was reaffirmed as a sub-committee of the CDVEC/University of Dublin Joint Liaison Council. The CDVEC/University of Dublin Joint Liaison Council was formed in 1976 to enable the University to give degree status to a number of courses within the five CDVEC third level colleges. In 1987/8 the DES formally agreed to the allocation of two heads of staff which with some ancillary provision. Other activity and staffing was subsequently organised on a self-financing basis. The CDVEC was incorporated into the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) in July 2013. In the financial year 2015 the CDU had an expenditure of €3.2 million.


Annual Report 2017-18


CDU working definition of education

Arising from nearly forty-five years’ experience of education developments the CDU provisionally operates from the working definition that education is a lifelong process of developing and realising human potential through the exploration of what it means to be human. Given our social nature and the sensation of our experiences through hand, heart and head, education deepens our understanding of the nature and quality of the relationships we have with ourselves, with others, and with the natural and constructed world. Through play, exploration, cultural, artistic and scientific expression of these interconnecting relationships we create meaning, sustain ourselves, elucidate truth, shape our identities, cultivate an ethical and moral outlook, develop skills, build structures and, carry out social, political and economic activities. The quality of these relationships intensely impacts on our wellbeing, profoundly effects learning, deeply influences the development, nurturing and flourishing of the human person and of human life and directly impinges on other living beings and on the planet itself.


The role of the CDU

In responding to the needs of the CDETB and the broader educational community, the CDU has a long history of supporting projects involving social justice issues including citizenship, sustainability, equality, development, peace and reconciliation, intercultural understanding, democracy, human rights, ethics and transparency as well as programmes involving inclusion, access and participation that address both the causes and effects of educational disadvantage. In response to international agreements and national policies the CDU assists the DES in realising its objectives through developing resources, initiating projects and where appropriate provide representation on committees e.g. the Council of Europe (CoE) Education for Democratic Citizenship/ Human Rights Education (EDC/HRE) and the CoE Ethics and Transparency in Education ETINED. The CDU also has entered into partnership with Concern Worldwide and Gorta Self Help Africa as lead agency to enable the Irish Aid funded post primary development education programme WorldWise Global Schools (WWGS).


The CDU assists the education sector in responding to its’ Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) by supporting and participating in initiatives that deepen the integration of education within the broader community.  Currently the CDU has established links with the Young Social Innovators (YSI), ECO/UNESCO, Encountering the Arts Ireland (ETAI), Poetry Ireland, Dublin City Council, Irish Aid, other GOs and NGOs. The process includes enhancing North/South cooperation with educational organisations in Northern Ireland by participation in the EU PEACE funded projects arising from the Good Friday/ Belfast agreement and/or by joining in mutual partnership in other international projects.

The CDU has initiated a number of projects that later have been mainstreamed in whole or in part through the post-primary and further education sector including Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE), Youthreach, Environment and Social Studies. Earlier work on the Humanities and Integrated Science (ISCIP) are congruent with many aspects of the new NCCA Junior Certificate proposals. Arising from education responses to early school leaving, the CDU developed the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) which subsequently became a national DES programme which has also informed developments in the new Junior Certificate. The CDU is responsible for the employment and human resource support to the senior librarian and the librarians located in thirty JCSP DEIS schools throughout the country. More recently the work of the Trocaire/CDU citizenship studies project has borne fruit in the announcement that Politics and Society will become a new Leaving Certificate subject in 2016. A previous collaboration with Trocaire gave rise to the Junior Certificate Civic Social and Political Studies (CSPE) course.

Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA)


“Senior Certificate programmes were developed at Shannon Curriculum Development Centre as part of the SPIRAL2 project. VPT, based on PreEmployment courses, was introduced by the Department of Education in 1984 and the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) of City of Dublin VEC supported a large network of schools in developing this initiative. The Career Foundation Programme, piloted by the CDU during the eighties as part of the EU Transition 2 programme, was also part of the backdrop to the LCA” (Gleeson et al, 2002:42.).


This two-year  person-centred programme aims at preparing students for adult and working life. It is intended to meet the needs of the students who are not adequately catered for by other Leaving Certificate Programmes. The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) Programme is made up of a number of modules grouped under three headings: General Education, Vocational Education and Vocational Preperation. Graudates of the LCA can progress to an approved Further Education course and can become eligible for admission to some third level courses.

While the CDU initially operated within the second level sector, nowadays it now also operates in the further education sector and with all the providers including Youthreach, Adult Education and Prison Education. More recently the CDU has established points of alignment with the Psychological Service through the professional development programme, the CDYSB through the Separated Children’s Service and the Sports and Cultural Committee (SCC) through the CDETB JCSP/Poetry Ireland arts initiative.


From the beginning of the major expansion of further education in the late 1970s, the CDU has supported teachers and developed structures to enhance the provision of a quality service for learners. It included, prior to the introduction of the NCVA/FETAC/QQI, the provision of certification to PLC students of CDVEC and other participating colleges that was recognised by a number of Higher Education Institutions by an enhanced points system or by a direct entry mechanism. Given the new QQI guidelines, the CDU will enable the development of newly devolved structures and provide tailored CPD for CDETB staff, and through the Further Education Support Service provide professional support to other DES/SOLAS funded further education providers. The CDU will also continue to promote an understanding of Further Education and Training to include developing the learners’ capacity to play a full critically aware, democratic, ethical and active part in their civic community, in line with the agreement on new competences for democratic culture by the ministers of education at the Council of Europe.


For more information please visit the website of the Further Education Support Service.

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