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Primary School Curriculum

The Primary School Curriculum was developed by the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) and launched in 1999. The process of revising the curriculum began with the work of the Review Body on the Primary Curriculum, which published its report (The Quinlan Report) in 1990. The report constituted a detailed appraisal of the 1971 curriculum and provided the basis for the redesign and restructuring that is presented in this curriculum (Introduction, p.2).

Curriculum Overview

The curriculum incorporates the child centred principles of its predecessor, Curaclam na Bunscoile (1971). It identifies three primary aims of primary education:

  • to enable the child to live a full life as a child and to realise his or her potential as a unique individual
  • to enable the child to develop as a social being through living and co-operating with others and so contribute to the good of society
  • to prepare the child for further education and lifelong learning.

The curriculum is learner-centred. It emphasises the importance of literacy, numeracy, and language, while at the same time responding to changing needs in science and technology, social personal and health education, and citizenship.

The curriculum is presented in six subject areas comprising 11 subjects. The development and implementation of the curriculum in religious education in primary schools remains the responsibility of the relevant patron bodies.

Primary School Curriculum
Areas Subjects
Language English, Gaeilge
Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) History, Geography, Science
Arts Education Visual Arts, Drama, Music
Physical Education
Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

Key aims, principles and features of the curriculum are explained in the Introduction and they underpin teaching and learning in all curriculum subjects. Curriculum documents (which contain content objectives and strands/strand units) and teacher guidelines are provided for each curriculum subject. In its totality, the Primary School Curriculum aims to enable children to meet, with self-confidence and assurance, the demands of life, both now and in the future (Introduction, p.6).

Curriculum Access and Download

A curriculum book is provided for each of the 11 curriculum subjects, with accompanying Teacher Guidelines books as well as a general introduction. These can all be searched, accessed and viewed using the navigation tools on this site.

Alternatively, these documents can be downloaded as PDF files. These files are quite large and may be slow to download as they retain the original format and images of the curriculum documents. They require Adobe Reader.

Download PDF files of Primary School Curriculum

There are no hard copies of the Primary School Curriculum currently available. To purchase a CD-ROM contact: Government Publications, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2, Tel: + 353 1 647 6000.

In response to the challenges reported in the two phases of review, we have developed materials that re-present some of the subjects of the curriculum to make the content objectives more accessible and manageable for teachers. Click here to view or download the re-presented curriculum materials.

Further information on the NCCA's work at Early Childhood and Primary is provided in the publications below.

Curriculum Implementation

Following the launch of the Primary School Curriculum in 1999, all primary teachers participated in a national programme of in-service. This programme supported teachers in working with the curriculum for each of the eleven subjects. The programme, completed in the 2006/2007 school year, was provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and the School Development Planning Support, Primary (SDPS). Established in 2008, the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS) subsumes and develops the work of the former PCSP and SDPS. The overarching aim of the service is the development of schools as professional learning communities in which teacher learning is closely linked with school improvement and development and pupil progress. Visit the PPDS website for more information.

Curriculum Review

In September 2003, the NCCA initiated a programme of curriculum review at primary. Phase one of the review focused on the first three subjects for which teachers received in-service support, namely English, Visual Arts and Mathematics. The NCCA published a report on this phase of review in May 2005. Phase two focused on a further three subjects, namely Gaeilge, Science, and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The NCCA published a report on this phase in June 2008. Each phase of review asked to what extent and to what effects the curriculum in the relevant subjects enabled teachers to provide quality learning experiences for children in primary schools. Follow this link to find out more about the two phases of curriculum review.


Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities (online resource)
Primary Curriculum Review Phase 1: Final Report (2005) (PDF, 2.4MB)
Primary Curriculum Review Phase 2: Final Report (2008) (PDF, 1.5MB))
Information and Communications Technology in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Teachers (2004) (PDF, 1.4MB)
ICT Framework on ACTION (online browsable with sample activities)
Intercultural Education in Primary Schools: Guidelines for Teachers and School Management (2005) (PDF, 2.8MB)
Intercultural Education in Primary Schools: Guidelines for Teachers and School Management (2005) (online browsable with sample activities)
Assessment in the Primary Schools Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools (2007) (PDF, 1.7MB)
Assessment in the Primary Schools Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools (2007) (online browsable version)

Related links

Download of the Primary School Curriculum (1999)
Primary School Curriculum: re-presented materials
Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS)
Department of Education and Science
National Pilot Project on Teacher Induction