In April 2019, Report of the Independent Review of Career Guidance Tools and Information was launched.
The objective of this review was to examine aspects of career guidance in the Irish education and training system in order to improve the existing career guidance tools and information and to enhance engagement with enterprise.
The report contains 18 recommendations under four themes: improvement in career guidance tools and career information, better engagement with enterprise, inclusion and enhanced governance structures.
The recommendations emphasise the need for evidence-based reform and the involvement of all stakeholders.
Other recommendations in the report include:
- Establish a support organisation with a new approach to guidance services which makes best use of digital and online technology.
Strengthen and promote a user-friendly centralised careers portal.
Initiate supports for employers to facilitate career guidance such as visits to industry and schools, guest lectures and quality work experience.
Provide access for special education and adult learners to the proposed enhanced central career support services, including information on labour market opportunities.
Promoting inclusion by prioritising the allocation of resources, including guidance teachers for learners most in need of assistance.
Teacher Sharing Initiative
In February 2019, the Minister announced a new scheme to allow post-primary schools to share teachers in priority subjects. The scheme will start from the beginning of the 2019/20 school year and will be reviewed after the first year of operation. The aim of this scheme is to alleviate some of the challenges schools have faced in recruiting teachers. This new approach to filling posts is a solution for principals who are seeking teachers and graduates who are looking for full-time employment and more options for work.
The teacher sharing initiative is one of a range of actions contained in the Action Plan for Teacher Supply, published by the Minister in November 2018. The aim of this initiative is to provide more options to ease recruitment pressures in some specific subject areas such as STEM, modern languages, Irish and home economics.
The teacher sharing scheme will allow two schools to work together to recruit a teacher for a job and employ them on more hours than if they were teaching in just one school. It will optimise the use of teaching time. It will allow a teacher to teach as many hours as possible in a high-demand subject.
Masters in Irish-Medium and Gaeltacht Education
A new Masters in Irish-Medium and Gaeltacht Education (M.Ed.) was launched in October 2018. This innovative postgraduate programme for primary and post-primary teachers was announced in order to add to the provision of teachers in the education system who teach through the medium of Irish. This teacher education programme represents another step in the implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022 and encompasses part of a greater national plan to tackle issues related to the supply of teachers.
This part-time M.Ed. degree is at Level 9 of the National Qualifications Framework, and is accredited by the University of Limerick. The Minister signed a six-year contract, worth €2.1 million, for this postgraduate degree between Mary Immaculate College and the Department of Education and Skills.
A Foreign Language Advisory Group (FLAG) was set up early in 2018 to bring together key stakeholders to provide advice from a range of perspectives in order to support the implementation of Languages Connect - Ireland’s strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017 - 2022. The group is chaired by the Department of Education and Skills and membership includes representatives nominated by relevant stakeholders.
In August 2018 the Minister for education announced a 25% increase in Foreign Language Assistants (bringing the total number available to schools from September 2018 to 140) as a support for targeted measures towards improving fluency, immersion and the number of languages taught in post-primary schools and as the government prioritizes teaching of foreign languages in context of Brexit.
These additional Foreign Language Assistants are being provided to schools to enhance and support the teaching and learning of Spanish, German, French and Italian in the classroom. The government have committed to doubling the number of Foreign Languages Assistants available to schools by 2026 under their Foreign Languages Strategy.
In the context of the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries and recognising that once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, Ireland will be one of only two English speaking countries in the Union. The Minister is taking action to ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. The government is committed to ensuring Ireland is prepared for a changed European dynamic.
The role of the Foreign Language Assistant is to support foreign language teachers in promoting a communicative approach to the teaching of the language. The scheme is reciprocal, also allowing Irish students or qualified teachers to act as English language Assistants to spend time teaching in other countries.
The fluency and authenticity of the Assistants as native speakers should enable them to:
- Help students to understand the spoken language;
- Encourage students to speak the foreign language (suggested activities: pair-work, role-play, games, competitions etc.) and to improve their pronunciation;
- Encourage and assist students in reading authentic and fictional written texts appropriate to their level;
- Give students a better understanding of the way of life and customs of the foreign country.
The Foreign Languages Strategy commits to encouraging more schools to take part in the scheme and to seek to expand the range of languages to which the scheme will apply. Schools who are not currently participating in the scheme are strongly encouraged to consider applying for an Assistant in the future.
In December 2017, Languages Connect – Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2022 was launched with the vision to promote a society where the ability to learn and use at least one foreign language is taken for granted, because of its inherent value for individuals, society and the economy.
The Plan sets out a roadmap to put Ireland in the top ten countries in Europe for the teaching and learning of foreign languages, through a number of measures targeted at improving proficiency, diversity and immersion. The delivery of the Strategy is a key action in the Minister’s Action Plan on Education.
The Foreign Languages Strategy will:
Increase the number of post-primary schools offering two or more foreign languages by 25%;
Increase the number of students sitting two languages at Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate by 25%;
Increase the number of students in higher education studying a foreign language, in any capacity, as part of their course, by 20%;
Increase the number of participants in Erasmus+ by 50%;
Double the number of teachers participating in teacher mobility programmes;
Double the number of foreign language assistants in schools;
Improve learners’ attitude to foreign language learning;
Improve the quality of foreign language teaching at all levels.
There are 100 actions in the Strategy, including:
Introduce Mandarin Chinese as a Leaving Certificate subject;
Introduce curricular specifications for heritage speakers for Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese;
Develop a range of short courses in languages for Junior Cycle;
Explore the potential for introducing bonus points at Leaving Certificate for studying foreign languages in cases where students apply for higher education courses in language-related areas;
Enhance employer engagement in the development of new trade languages;
Increase the opportunities for short-term teacher exchanges for post-primary teachers;
Carry out periodic surveys of students’ attitudes and experiences of foreign language learning;
Incentivise schools to diversify their language offer, including by means of concessionary hours, where appropriate;
Progress pilot programme for co-operation with foreign-owned companies, or indigenous companies with a foreign presence, to enable students in Further Education and Training and Higher Education to do work placements in the parent country;
Implement the newly developed Junior Cycle short course in Lithuanian;
Appoint “language champions” from business and other sectors to demonstrate the opportunities available for graduates with foreign language competences;
Develop new models of delivering language teaching, such as shared classes and blended learning. This will allow students who are part of small immigrant communities, within specific schools, to develop their heritage language skills.
Implementation of this ambitious strategy will require significant changes to how foreign languages have been taught in the past and will require extra resources. The Minister is confident that the correct policies will be put in place under this strategy to increase the number of foreign language teachers. The strategy also contains a number of actions to ensure we have a steady supply of teachers to deliver on the targets of the strategy.
DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion, first published in 2005, remains the Department of Education and Skills' policy instrument to address educational disadvantage. It focuses on addressing and prioritising the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities, from early childhood through second-level education.
Enhancing attendance, progression, retention and attainment are central elements of DEIS. Interventions focus on a school action plan with a concentration on literacy and numeracy from an early stage; strong links between the home, school and community; strong links between schools working co-operatively; and added value from links between education and other services.
Among the key issues and needs addressed by DEIS are:
Improved identification of disadvantage enabling resources to be targeted more effectively;
Targeted reductions in pupil teacher ratios and additional non-pay allocations for schools based on level of disadvantage;
Access to additional literacy/numeracy supports and programmes;
Access to Home/School/Community Liaison and School Completion Programme (SCP) services;
Enhancing research and evaluation of outcomes.
Free primary schoolbooks scheme
As part of Budget 2023, over €50 million is allocated to provide free books to primary school children and young people within the free education scheme from September 2023.
The free primary school books scheme announced on Wednesday 22nd March 2023, is a permanent measure and will benefit up to 558,000 pupils in approximately 3,230 primary schools, including over 130 special schools.
The free primary schoolbook scheme delivers on the Programme for Government commitment to extend the free school book pilot, currently in over 100 DEIS primary schools, as resources permit.
The implementation of the free schoolbook scheme will build on the existing school book rental scheme which is available in the majority of primary schools and on the free school books pilot provided to over 100 primary DEIS schools over the past three school years.
The grant under the new scheme will issue to each recognised primary school in April. In the case of primary schools managed by ETBs, the funding will issue directly to the relevant ETB. Under the new free primary schoolbook scheme, €96 per pupil will be paid in line with validated pupil enrolment figures on 30 September 2022.
The basis of the grant funding provided is that it eliminates the overall cost of schoolbooks, workbooks and copybooks for parents. Parents must not be asked to purchase schoolbooks or workbooks or to make a contribution to the school towards the cost of these items.
Schools will continue to have autonomy to choose books that meet curricular requirements.
In recognition of the work required in schools associated with implementing this scheme, the Department of Education has put in place an administration support grant. The administration support grant will be paid separately to the schoolbook grant before the end of June
Detailed Guidance on the implementation of the scheme is published on gov.ie/primaryschoolbooks and has been made available to primary schools, including special schools, to ensure they have sufficient time to implement the new scheme in advance of the start of the 2023/24 school year. The Guidance has been informed by the engagements with all relevant stakeholders.
The Department of Education has engaged with all relevant stakeholders as to how the scheme will operate. These included: primary school management bodies, unions, the National Parents Council Primary, representatives of booksellers and schoolbook publishers, IBEC, Retail Ireland, the Small Firms Association, Barnardos and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. The Department also engaged with a number of schools, including some of the primary schools who participated in the DEIS pilot free book scheme, to learn of their first-hand experience of operating a book rental scheme.
Schools already have obligations to the National Procurement Guidelines and the law which governs public procurement in Ireland when sourcing goods and services. The Schools Procurement Unit produced guidance in 2017 for schools on good procurement practices.
A full evaluation of the first year of implementation of the scheme will be undertaken by the Department in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, in order to inform the guidance, implementation, costs and efficiency of the scheme for future years.
Published material on Gov.ie website: gov.ie - Free Primary Schoolbooks Scheme (www.gov.ie)
There is a Programme for Government commitment, to be led by the Department of Children, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Youth to review the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS) and ensure that the successor strategy has a stronger outcomes-focused approach. The Department of Education is engaging with and supporting this. There is also a Programme for Government commitment to develop a national Traveller Education Strategy, and work is progressing on this.
Under NTRIS, the Supporting Traveller and Roma (STAR) pilot project in education was established in 2019 with the aim of improving attendance, participation and school completion in specific Traveller and Roma communities regionally. There are four pilot areas (Galway, Wexford, Dublin and Cork), and the team in each location is provided with additional resources to work with parents, children and young people, schools, Traveller and Roma communities and service providers to address the barriers impacting on Traveller and Roma attendance, participation and retention in education. It is intended that the pilot project will inform future policy initiatives to support children and young people from the Traveller and Roma communities in their education. There is a Programme for Government commitment to undertake an independent assessment of this pilot project. The evaluation has commenced and is expected to be completed in Q1 2024.
DEIS – Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools is the main policy initiative of the Department of Education to address educational disadvantage at school level.
The renewed DEIS Plan published in 2017 sets out the vision for future interventions in the critical area of educational disadvantage policy and builds on what has already been achieved by schools who have benefitted from the additional supports available under the initial DEIS programme introduced in 2005
In March 2022 the Minister for Education announced a major expansion of the DEIS programme which meant that, for the first time since 2017, the programme was being significantly expanded and eligible schools gained access to targeted supports to address educational disadvantage. This is the largest ever single investment in the programme and
extended DEIS status to schools serving the highest proportions of pupils at risk of educational disadvantage..
This announcement followed an extensive body of work by the DEIS technical group to develop the refined DEIS identification model to identify the concentrated levels of disadvantage of schools. All schools in the country were considered for inclusion in the DEIS programme under the DEIS ID model.
The DEIS identification process aims to identify those schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage or the highest proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds within a school. The model uses information from the school’s individual enrolment database and 2016 national census data as represented by the Pobal HP Deprivation index. The model takes into account the student cohort and the relative disadvantage within a given school. The DEIS identification model takes into consideration the significant educational disadvantage experienced by Traveller and Roma learners and by students residing in direct provision or emergency homeless accommodation.
A detailed paper on the refined DEIS identification model is available on gov.ie at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/a3c9e-extension-of-deis-to-further-schools/#how-schools-were-selected-for-inclusion-in-deis.
Schools that were not satisfied with the outcome following the application of the DEIS identification model to their school enrolment data were provided with the opportunity to have that outcome reviewed.
Published material on Gov.ie wesbite: gov.ie - Extension of DEIS to further schools (www.gov.ie)
The Department of Education received Dormant Accounts Funding to tackle education disadvantage for Traveller and Roma communities and to support attendance, participation and retention among Traveller and Roma learners.
This is being used to fund 10 new Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) coordinators in 14 non-DEIS post-primary schools with high numbers of Traveller and Roma students. The HSCL role is usually only available to schools in the DEIS programme. These HSCL coordinators have access to funding to implement and run initiatives to encourage improvements in school attendance, retention and progression for Traveller and Roma students. The funding has allowed the creation of a new coordinator post with responsibilities across the four STAR pilot sites and for facilitating effective information-sharing between STAR teams and the 10 new HSCL coordinators.
Funding for the above was extended into 2023.
The City Connects Pilot has been extended into the 2022/2023 academic year and now has six Coordinators across the 10 schools.
City Connects is in receipt of funding from the Dormant Accounts Funding initiative.
City Connects, originally developed by Boston College, is a systemic approach for schools to provide each and every pupil with a tailored plan of services to address strengths and needs in academic, social-emotional, health and family domains of development. Services and enrichment opportunities are leveraged from both the schools as well as community-based organizations. City Connects staff collaborate closely with teachers, principals, Home School Community Liaison officers, Multi-Disciplinary Teams and School completion programme personnel.
The pilot is led by the Department of Education (DE) and Tusla Education Support Service, in conjunction with Mary Immaculate College and Boston College. It was first introduced to ten DEIS Band 1 primary schools in 2020
Using their knowledge of the particular needs and interests of the pupils in a school, City Connects identifies existing and new services and enrichments. City Connects school coordinators cultivate partnerships with community agencies, serving as a point of contact for the school. They work closely with families to facilitate access to supports. They also use proprietary software to document, track, and report on service referrals for each student, and they follow up to assure service delivery, and assess effectiveness.
The P-TECH (‘Pathways into Technology’) School Model, pioneered by IBM, is an education initiative that combines post primary school with elements of further education and workplace experience. Students involved in P-Tech undertake additional P-Tech programme sessions within post-primary school which contribute to a “Special Purpose Award” awarded by the National College of Ireland and equivalent to 10 credits at QQI Level 6.
Initially three post-primary schools were involved in the project during its inception in November 2018 St. Joseph’s CBS, Marino College and Larkin Community College. In the 2022/23 school year they have been joined by two additional post-primary schools - Rosmini Community School and O’Connell’s CBS.
P-TECH requires a three-way partnership between school, higher/further education institution and industry partners, with each required to commit to the success of the school and its students. It includes a structured workplace learning strand with mentoring, worksite visits, speakers, project days, skills-based and paid internships. Whilst the acquisition of relevant IT skills in key areas are included in the course work, P-TECH also seeks to encourage and develop student’s problem solving and creativity and places emphasis on teamwork, collaboration and communication skills.
The programme is supported by the Department of Education, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the NEIC Implementation Board, the National College of Ireland and the City of Dublin Education and Training Board. Current business partners are IBM, Cisco, Irish Life, Irish Water, Virgin Media Ireland, Irish Rail, Salesforce, Deloitte and A&L Goodbody.
Literacy and Numeracy Strategy
Ireland’s National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People was launched in July 2011. The Strategy runs from 2011 – 2020. It responds to areas of weakness identified in recent national studies and sets ambitious targets covering early childhood, primary and secondary education. All primary and post-primary schools are participating in the implementation of the strategy, and are required to set targets for the improvement of literacy and numeracy skills in the framework of a School Improvement Plan. Significant early progress has been made on the curricular and teacher education reforms set out in the Strategy.
The key elements of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy focus on:
Enabling parents and communities to support children's literacy and numeracy through public awareness measures, supporting ECCE and school/parent/community links;
Improving practitioner skills in literacy and numeracy teaching and assessment;
Building the capacity of school leadership;
Improving the curriculum and learning experience for students, and ensuring that literacy and numeracy permeates all areas of learning within a balanced curriculum;
Supporting those with learning needs to achieve their potential;
Improving assessment and evaluation at both school and system level.
At the beginning of 2018, the Minister for Education and Skills announced the development of two new Irish-medium teacher education programmes to deliver up to 60 new places for teacher education through Irish annually. These new places are in addition to the 380 extra places on initial teacher education courses announced recently to fulfil a key commitment in the Policy on Gaeltacht Education. The new places are an important measure to ensure Irish medium schools in both Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas have an adequate supply of Irish medium teachers.
The two new Irish-medium teacher education programmes represent an investment of up to almost €7m, depending on uptake and will be delivered by the Marino Institute of Education and Mary Immaculate College. Marino Institute of Education will deliver a 4-year Irish-medium Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) for primary teachers commencing in 2019 and Mary Immaculate College will run an Irish-medium Masters in Education (M.Ed.) for primary and post-primary teachers, including principals, commencing in 2018.
In the 2017 Budget, 2400 extra teaching posts were announced, to be put in place from September 2017, to address demographic needs, to partially address guidance and other staffing cuts made during the recession, support school leadership, and to provide extra professional time for teachers in the context of junior cycle curriculum reform.
Given that the targets set out in the Strategy 2011-2020 have already been achieved, a revised Strategy was published in March 2017 building on the existing approaches and priorities across six pillars:
Enabling parents to support their children's learning;
Improving teachers and ECCE staff practice;
Building the capacity of school leadership;
Improving curriculum and the learning experience;
Helping students with additional needs;
Improving assessment and evaluation to support better learning.
The new Strategy sets out an Interim Review of the period 2011-2016, and New Targets for the period 2017-2020. Separate targets are identified for DEIS (disadvantaged) and non-DEIS schools.
Priority actions in the new Strategy include:
Prioritising the development of maths curricula at primary and post-primary, including the redevelopment of the primary maths curriculum, encompassing the introduction of computational and creative thinking skills and coding;
The Professional Development Service for Teachers refining its literacy and numeracy supports for teachers;
Reviewing the time allocation for maths at primary to ensure that the allocation reflects learners’ requirements;
Implementation of new curricula in Irish at both primary and post-primary, which aim to improve Irish as Language 1 in Irish medium schools and Irish as Language 2 in English medium schools;
Supporting ECCE practitioners and teachers in Early Start centres with comprehensive implementation of the Aistear curriculum framework, in particular development of early literacy and numeracy skills;
Support for the transitions between educational settings, e.g. the move from early years settings to primary schools, by developing reporting templates-for use by ECCE practitioners, schools and parents-based on research and trialling;
Carrying out research on creative and innovative ways to support parents in their role as educators.
The strategy will also be supported by the new DEIS Plan 2017 and a forthcoming National Policy Statement on Science Technology Mathematics and Engineering.
A new Post Graduate Programme in School Leadership for teachers will begin in September 2017, to be delivered by a consortium of universities working closely with the Centre for School Leadership. In addition 4600 coaching hours will be provided for 400 school leaders across the country.
2260 additional teaching posts were announced in the budget 2016 reversing some of the cuts made during the Recession, effective from the school year 2016/17. 300 additional posts were provided in primary schools to reduce average class size from 28:1 to 27:1. There were 440 primary teachers to address increased enrolment, and 445 to provide extra resource posts. At post primary level, 550 additional posts were provided, to partially reverse the guidance cuts (300 posts), to enhance the role of deputy principals and improve pupil:teacher ratios. Post primary schools also got 155 additional resource posts and 370 posts to deal with increased enrolment.
In December 2016, the results of the OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) study of attainment of 15 year olds in 70 countries in science, mathematics and reading were published in Future Ready? The Performance of 15 year olds in Ireland in Science, Reading Literacy and Mathematics in 2015. The results show:
In reading, Irish students ranked 3rd out of 35 OECD countries, 2nd among EU countries, and 5th out of all countries participating in PISA 2015;
In science, Irish students ranked 13th out of 35 OECD countries, 6th among EU countries and 19th out of all countries participating in PISA 2015;
In mathematics, Irish students ranked 13th of 35 OECD countries, 9th among EU countries and 18th out of all countries participating in PISA 2015;
All three test domains (reading, maths and science) showed some gender differences in results, with girls performing better than boys in reading and boys performing better than girls in mathematics and science.
The spread of attainment was lower in Ireland than the OECD average, with fewer students scoring at the lowest levels, but also at the highest levels. While this clearly indicates the need to better challenge high achieving students, it also indicates a good level of equity across the system.
In November 2016, TIMSS in Ireland: Mathematics and Science in Primary and Post Primary Schools was published, setting out the results of international testing in Maths and Science which was undertaken in 2015 as part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science study. The study covered 31 countries, and involved primary pupils in 4th class (year 6) and post primary pupils in second year. The results show improved performance in science and mathematics at primary level over previous years (ranked 9th for Maths and 10th for Science). At second level, pupils were ranked 9th for Maths and 10th for Science, with improved performance in science over earlier years.
In October 2016 the Department of Education and Skills published Standardised Achievement Tests: An Analysis of the Results at Primary School Level in 2011/12 and 2012/13. This focuses on the results of norm referenced tests in literacy and numeracy of pupils in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes which are undertaken at school level and are now an ongoing part of the literacy and numeracy strategy. The aggregate results are submitted to the school boards of management and reported to the Department, and are used for evaluation purposes and to identify students who need additional support. The Report shows that in literacy and numeracy and in the Irish language, schools are reporting performance above what would be expected in a normal Bell curve. While an improvement in performance has also been evidenced in other externally administered tests, the results suggest that the tests used are in need of updating, and that familiarity with the test instruments is also contributing to improved results.
Ireland participated in the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) in June 2016.
In October 2016, the Department of Education and Skills published a Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022 to promote excellence in Irish medium schools, and to support the strengthened use of Irish as a community language in Gaeltacht areas. It is the first Gaeltacht specific education policy in the history of the state. The overarching goal of the Policy is to ensure the provision of high quality Irish-medium education in Gaeltacht schools to support the use of Irish as the main language of Gaeltacht communities. The Policy actions span the whole spectrum of education from early years to third level.
Gaeltacht schools face particular challenges in delivering all of the curriculum through Irish in a context where those entering school (and their parents) have varying abilities in the language. The strategy provides for additional teachers, extra resources and supports, enhanced professional development, strengthening school leadership, encouraging schools and early learning settings to deliver all, or more of their programmes, through Irish, a Gaeltacht Schools Excellence award scheme, curricular reform, sharing of best practice and promotion of research and development. A dedicated Gaeltacht unit within the Department of Education and Skills is also being established.
Professional development, curriculum and quality support
In March 2016 the Economic and Social Research Centre published a Review of the Droichead Teacher Induction Pilot Programme in primary and post primary schools. The evaluation showed that newly qualified teachers, principals and professional development staff were highly satisfied with the effectiveness of the programme in providing a structured approach to mentoring, professional support and performance assessment. The programme also helped to introduce a more collaborative culture within school staff generally.
The review of entry requirements to initial teacher education undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institution, Entry to Programmes of Initial Teacher Education, was published in November 2016, and indicates little evidence to justify the need for changed entry criteria.
In March 2016, the Teaching Council launched Cosán, the first National Framework of Teachers Learning setting out the professional standards required in terms of values and principles, dimensions of teachers learning, learning processes, learning areas, standards to guide learning and reflection. The intention is that the framework will be implemented by 2020. The next stage is a development process which will allow space and time for the teaching profession to work out how the framework can best support and recognise their ongoing learning.
The new primary language curriculum is being phased into schools for infants to second class with effect from September 2016, with a focus on the oral strand. In 2017/18, this will extend to reading and writing strands, with all strands being implemented from 2018. Professional development for teachers and schools leaders is currently under way. A revised language curriculum for pupils in 3rd to 6th class is under development, together with a review of other areas of the curriculum.
Junior Cycle Reform
At post primary level, the Department of Education and Skills published an updated Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 for the reform of the curriculum in lower secondary education. This builds on earlier proposals by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, which were followed by extensive discussions between the Department and the partners in education.
The new Junior Cycle is designed to encourage greater innovation, student engagement and active learning, to provide an inclusive educational experience for all students, to embed key skills, to reform assessment and promote greater professional collaboration between teachers.
A dual approach to assessment will provide for formative and summative feedback. For subjects, assessment will incorporate:
Ongoing assessments by the school;
To Classroom Based Assessments devised by the NCCA, and marked by the teacher (in years 2 and 3);
A written Assessment Task and "end of junior cycle" examination set and marked by the State Examinations Commission.
For short courses, assessment will be based on formative assessment and completion of no more than 2 Classroom Based Assessments, based on national descriptors developed by the NCCA, which are marked by the class teacher.
Subject teachers will participate in Subject Learning and Assessment Review Meetings. At these meetings, teachers will share and discuss representative samples of students’ work and build a common understanding about the quality of their students’ learning. The Subject Learning and Assessment Review meetings will play a key role in developing a collegial professional culture and build up expertise about the judgements that teachers make about student achievement.
At the end of the 3 year cycle a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement to a standard template will be issued by the school.
The JCPA will capture the different assessment elements undertaken over the three years of junior cycle, including:
Descriptors of Classroom-Based Assessments in subjects and short courses completed by students and assessed by teachers;
Grades achieved by students on the final examinations marked by the SEC (and, as appropriate, incorporating the outcomes of the Assessment Tasks) completed by students in schools and submitted to the SEC for marking;
Outcomes achieved by students in Priority Learning Units (for the relevant students);
Achievements of students in other areas of learning.
Up to now, formal assessment of achievement at the end of junior cycle has been based on performance in examinations run by the State Examinations Commission. The changes in assessment are designed to ensure that that assessment for learning is integral to the work of schools, and that students continually receive structured feedback on their own learning. In addition, school based approaches provide for greater flexibility in the modes of assessment which can be used, ensuring that they are appropriate to the learning objectives being promoted and the needs of students.
The new framework provides for the implementation of subjects and short courses, and sets out 24 statements of learning which all students should be offered as part of their programme. These can be achieved through a combination of subjects, or subjects plus short courses.
Short courses are being developed by the NCCA as exemplars, but schools and other organisations also have the flexibility to develop their own.
The eight key skills being embedded in subjects and short courses are:
Managing information and thinking;
Working with others.
Certification will generally be at Level 3 of the National Framework of Qualifications but Priority Learning Units are being developed at Level 2 and Level 1 to facilitate the recognition of achievements for students with special needs.
All subjects and short courses will be offered at a common level (up to now both ordinary and higher level were offered). However, Irish, English and Mathematics will be offered at ordinary and higher levels. All classroom based assessments will be at a common level.
The revised programme in Junior Cycle English began in September 2014, for final examination in 2017.
In the 2018 Budget, further provision was made to support the roll out of Junior Cycle Reform with Home Economics, History, Music, Geography and Mathematics, commencing in September 2018.
Negotiations continued throughout 2016 to resolve a range of outstanding industrial relations issues. However, the ASTI voted again in February 2017 to reject the proposals, and their directive to teachers to refuse to take part in school based assessment and professional development associated with the reformed junior cycle still stands. The Minister indicated that no further offer would be made. Pay increases have been agreed in respect of the other teacher unions who are co-operating with the national industrial relations framework. These increases do not apply to ASTI members.
In the 2017 Budget, an additional 550 additional teaching posts have been announced to provide for extra professional time for teachers in implementing the reforms.
In March 2017 the State Examinations Commission announced that having the second Classroom Based Assessment marked by the school would not be a pre-requisite for submission of the Assessment Task which is marked by the State Examinations Commission. The deadline for completion of the Assessment Task was extended to facilitate schools. It is now likely that in ASTI schools, pupils will complete the Assessment Tasks and Final Assessment which are marked by the State Examinations Commission, but that their Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement will not include Classroom Based Assessments.
From September 2017, revised programmes are being implemented in junior cycle in Irish, modern languages, and Visual Art. There will be a separate subject specification for Irish in schools where Irish is the medium of instruction for all subjects, or a number of subjects. In addition new Priority Learning Units at Level 1 (EQF level 1) for pupils with special needs will be available for use by schools. In addition, a new area of learning, Wellbeing, will be introduced. This will provide for a minimum threshold of 275 hours in all schools over the three year cycle, covering subjects or short courses in Physical Education, Social Personal and Health Education, and Civic Social and Political Education, allied with guidance and other areas of learning which support the achievement of wellbeing.
2017 marks the first year that English was examined under the new Framework for Junior Cycle. The grading system for English is different to other subjects this year in that, rather than the old ‘A, B, C’ grade format, students will be awarded one of six grade descriptors, from ‘Distinction’ to ‘Not Graded’.
Changes to Junior Cycle subjects are being implemented on a phased basis with both grading systems appearing together until 2021 at which time the last of the revised Junior Cycle subjects will be examined.
2017 will also mark the first year that students will be awarded a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA), arising from the new Framework. The JCPA will replace the current Junior Certificate which students receive. The JCPA, which will be issued to students by their schools towards the end of this year, will report on all elements of assessment and will record students’ achievements both in State Examinations and in Classroom Based Assessments, Short Courses, Priority Learning Units and Other Areas of Learning.
Junior cycle reforms in Mathematics Home Economics Music, History and Geography will begin in September 2018.
The short courses developed to date by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment for use in junior cycle now include:
Civic Social and Political Education;
Digital Media Literacy;
Caring for Animals;
Social Personal and Health Education;
Exploring Forensic Science;
Chinese Language and Culture;
Schools are also free to develop their own programmes in accordance with a template published by the NCCA.
Students began studying the new English programme in 2014, and will receive their Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement in 2017. New programmes in Science and Business Studies began in September 2016. Irish and modern languages subjects will start in 2017 and the remaining subjects will be phased in over the period to 2018-2019.
The reforms are being supported by:
Subject specification and teacher guidelines, exemplars for short courses, assessment toolkits and examples of student work being developed on an ongoing basis by the NCCA;
A national programme of professional development for school leaders and teachers;
Additional teacher time for planning, assessment and Subject Learning and Assessment Review Meetings;
Efforts continued throughout 2016 to resolve a range of industrial relations issues with the teacher unions, including the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland's objections to junior cycle assessment reform.
Senior Cycle Curriculum Reform
At senior cycle, reforms are under way to update curricula, to provide for short courses as well as subjects, to embed key skills (information processing, being personally effective, communicating, critical and creative thinking, and working with others), to provide for a greater range of modes of assessment, to encourage active learning and innovation, and to address issues concerned with rote learning and the predictability of examinations. These changes are being included on a phased basis as subject syllabi are revised. For a high stakes examination such as the Leaving Certificate, which is a key determinant of progression to employment or further study, there are no plans to move away from assessments externally set and marked by the State Examinations Commission.
A number of syllabi have been revised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, but further development work is under way before implementation commences in schools. It is considered important to implement the changes at junior cycle first in order to provide an appropriate foundation for senior cycle reform.
In January 2018, it was announced that 40 post primary schools around the country will start studying Leaving Certificate Computer Science from this September and will be the first to sit an exam in the subject in 2020.
The introduction of Computer Science as a Leaving Certificate subject is part of the Government’s overall commitment to embed digital technology in teaching and learning. It also complements other curricular changes being implemented such as introducing coding and computational thinking as part of the new maths curriculum for primary schools.
Computer Science for Leaving Certificate focuses on how programming and computational thinking can be applied to the solution of problems, and how computing technology impacts the world around us.
Students will learn:
How to analyse problems in computational terms;
Programming languages and how to read, write, test and modify computer programs;
Design computational artefacts such as web pages, digital animations, simulations, games, apps and robotic systems;
The ethical, historical, environmental and technological aspects of Computer Science, and how it impacts the social and economic development of society.
In February 2018, the Minister announced that schools across the country will be partaking in the first phase of the implementation of the new Physical Education for Senior Cycle programmes. 80 schools will implement either the examinable Physical Education Leaving Certificate subject or the new Senior Cycle Physical Education Framework which is not for examination, or both.
Students taking the new Leaving Certificate subject from September 2018 will sit the first Leaving Certificate Physical Education (LCPE) exam in 2020. The subject can be taken at both higher and ordinary levels. The new Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) Framework, will provide a new modern curriculum for teachers to teach P.E. to all students at senior cycle.
The specification for Leaving Certificate Physical Education (LCPE) will provide learners with an opportunity to study physical education for the Leaving Certificate examination, providing an additional optional Leaving Certificate subject.
The NCCA is continuing its work to revise subjects in senior cycle, but no revisions are being implemented/introduced in schools at present. The new subject, Politics and Society, which began for 41 schools in 2016, will be extended to more schools from September 2017, with a view to being available for all schools in 2018.
A new Leaving Certificate subject "Politics and Society" began in September 2016 in 41 schools. This will be expanded to all schools over the following 2 years. The new subject has four main strands of study – power and decision-making, active citizenship, human rights and responsibilities, globalisation and localisation. This builds on what is already a mandatory area of learning for all students in junior cycle.
Maths Reform, STEM Education and ICT in Schools
Ireland's future economic growth and competitiveness will increasingly depend on the extent to which it can support high value knowledge based industries. The availability of an adequate number of graduates skilled in the fields of mathematics, physical sciences, biological sciences, technology and engineering will be a critical factor in supporting this, and these areas are seen as the drivers of growth and innovation in the Smart Economy. Mathematics is an essential skill for disciplines such as science, technology, engineering and finance. It also promotes the ability to think rationally, analyse and solve problems, and process data clearly and accurately.
A major programme of reform of Mathematics is under way in second level schools, colloquially known as Project Maths. Its overall aim is to teach mathematics in a way which promotes real understanding, where students can appreciate the relevance of what they are learning and its application to everyday life, and how mathematics can be used to solve problems.
In March 2019, a further €50m investment in ICT infrastructure for all primary and post-primary schools was announced.
Grant funding for the purchase of ICT infrastructure will issue to all eligible primary and post primary schools in the country to enable them to embed the use of digital technology in teaching and learning.
The latest tranche of funding is made up of an initial pot of €45m – up €15m on the allocations in previous years.
The grants will be allocated through a standard lump sum and additional per-capita sums based on the size of the school. At primary level, the grant is worth in the region of €5,900 for a 100 pupil school and almost €22,000 for a 500 pupil school. At post-primary, a 500 student school can receive a grant of almost €27,000 rising to some €52,000 for a 1,000 student school.
A further €5m pot of funding is also being set aside in this year’s tranche to recognise and support schools’ efforts to engage with digital technologies in teaching and learning. Schools are being invited to apply for the additional fund by demonstrating evidence of effective embedding of digital technologies and Digital Learning Planning.
The grant funding for schools is expected to complement the objectives of a school’s Digital Learning Plan, which the Department of Education and Skills has provided considerable resources and supports to under the Digital Strategy.
The funding can be spent on technology including:
Desktop PCs, laptops, tablets or hybrid devices.
Cloud based tools and software applications to support learning.
Learning platforms – these are generally cloud based applications used to support the teaching and learning process.
In February 2018, the Minister for Education and Skills announced a €30m investment in ICT infrastructure for primary and post-primary schools.
Thousands of primary and post primary schools around the country will receive a grant to purchase equipment which will enable them to integrate digital technology in teaching and learning.
The grant, which will be received by all schools built before 2014, is allocated according to the size of the school plus a standard lump sum amount, is worth in excess of €4,100 for a 100 pupil school and almost €13,000 for a 500 pupil school at primary level. At post-primary level, the grant is worth almost €18,000 for a 500 student school, and over €33,000 for a 1,000 student school.
Project Maths is continuing. In March 2017, the 2 day national conference on teaching mathematics at post primary level, featured world renowned Professor Akihiko Takahashi delivering Maths lessons to Irish second level students. It also showcased the work of over 100 schools and 52 research groups involving 250 teachers who came together to engage in Lesson Study. The conference also featured three live structured problem solving lessons focused on topics in the Junior and Leaving Certificates, together with lesson observation and post lesson discussion, as part of a Lesson Study cycle. Lesson Study is an approach which has been very successful in Japan in developing teachers' capacity to use problem solving approaches in Mathematics.
In January 2017, an ICT infrastructure grant of €30m was announced for primary and post primary schools. The funds can be spent on teacher/student computers, tablets or hybrid devices, projectors or interactive flat screens, cloud based tools and applications to support learning, or learning platforms.
Promoting Inclusion and Diversity in Schools - Special Education
A new School Inclusion Model, supported by €4.75m funding allocated in Budget 2019, aims to build schools’ capacity to include children with additional needs and to provide other supports for pupils.
The achievement of better education and life outcomes for all children including those with special needs is a key element of Government policy with €1.75 billion - 19% of the total education budget - funding a range of supports including additional special needs teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs).
Seventy-five schools, both primary and post-primary, in Kildare, Wicklow and South Dublin will be invited to participate in this new research-based package of education and health supports to be piloted and evaluated in the 2019/20 school year.
Key features of the School Inclusion Model are:
A new frontloading allocation model for SNAs. A profiling system for Special Education Teaching will be used to allocate resources, breaking the link with the need for an assessment. An appeals mechanism will be included to deal with exceptional cases in schools.
National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) will be expanded to provide more intensive support. Additional psychologists will be recruited for the pilot, giving greater access to the full range of in-school supports for students with complex educational needs.
SNAs will be offered a new National Training Programme. It will be designed to equip them with the skills and knowledge to support students with additional care needs arising from significant medical, physical, emotional/behavioural, sensory, communication and other significant difficulties that pose a barrier to participating in school life. The training will emphasise the need for students to develop independence and resilience.
A new national nursing service for children with complex medical needs in schools. A cross agency planning group is to be established to develop the scope for the scheme, develop an application procedure for schools and plan for how the service is to be delivered. The new service will complement current provision provided through community based services.
A Regional Support Team will be set up for schools in the pilot, under the auspices of the NCSE. The team will include 4 Speech and Language Therapists, 2 Occupational Therapists and 4 Behaviour Support practitioners. A further 19 Speech and Language Therapists and 12 Occupational Therapists will deliver supports within schools.
Consultation with schools, teachers and parents.
In the 2018 Budget, provision has been made for:
1,091 Special Needs Assistants;
230 new teachers in special classes and special schools;
100 new Special Education teachers;
100 teaching posts for guidance;
10 NEPS psychologists will be recruited in 2018.
In the 2017 Budget, provision was made for a further 900 extra resource teachers and 115 extra special needs assistants from September 2017.
A new model for allocating teaching resources in respect of special needs to mainstream schools was announced in January 2017, to come into effect in September 2017. The previous model resulted in delays while children were waiting for a diagnosis of their disability, and provided a standardised allocation for each type of disability, irrespective of the spectrum of needs. The new model is based on the recommendations of a working group established by the National Council for Special Education following engagement with stakeholders. It was piloted successfully in 47 schools.
The new staffing model provides a baseline allocation for all schools to support inclusion and address learning difficulties, allied with a specific additional component based on the school's profile, socio-economic status, gender context and standardised test scores. The Department, working with the Educational Research Centre, has developed profiles for all schools. The model has been welcomed as moving away from unnecessary labelling of pupils with special needs for resource purposes.
Bullying in Schools
Cineáltas: Action Plan on Bullying
Cineáltas: Action Plan on Bullying was launched by the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD on 1st December 2022. This new Action Plan on Bullying, which replaces the 2013 Action Plan on Bullying, contains 61 actions to prevent and address bullying, cyber bullying, racism, gender identity bullying or sexual harassment, among other areas, in schools.
Cineáltas provides a collective vision and a clear roadmap for how the whole education community and society can work together to prevent and address bullying in schools. It incorporates each of the nine components of UNESCO’s Whole Education Approach to prevent and address bullying.
Cineáltas builds on the achievements and ambition of the previous Action Plan on Bullying published in 2013, taking into account the work undertaken in recent years to ensure that our schools are safe and happy places for all our children and young people.
Some of the key actions form the plan include:
• Development of a national database to enable the publication of an annual national report on bullying in schools
• Ensuring that student teachers and all school staff have the knowledge and skills to effectively prevent and address bullying
• Development of a recognition process, such as a Cineáltas flag, for schools who engage in measures to prevent and address bullying
• Piloting a programme of counselling supports for primary schools
• Developing guidance for the establishment of a Student Support Team model in larger primary schools
• Establishing a dedicated unit in the Department of Education to promote the voice of children and young people and to ensure that they have meaningful input into the development of Department policy
• The progression of the Charter Bill and the development of Charter Guidelines that will strengthen the voice and participation of children and young people and their parents in the development and implementation of school policies
The Implementation Plan for Cineáltas: Action Plan on Bullying launched by Minister Foley on 10th April 2023 commits to implementing each of the 61 actions contained in Cineáltas within a five-year period.
Implementation of Cineáltas commenced in Q1 2023, and a number of actions have been progressed.
An Implementation and Evaluation Group has been established to oversee implementation. Annual implementation and evaluation reports informed by feedback from children and young people, parents, school staff, education partners, key stakeholders and relevant agencies will be published.
Work is well underway to review and update the 2013 Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools. The updated procedures are due to be published in the coming months with Continuous Professional Development and training being made available for all school staff, Board of Management members and parents.
A dedicated Student Participation Unit was established in the Department of Education in April 2023. This unit will promote the voice of children and young people and help ensure that they have meaningful input into the development of Department policy. An Expert Group has been formed to advise the Department in relation to the work of the new unit. Professor Laura Lundy, Professor of Education Law and Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast, who developed the Lundy Model of children’s participation, has been appointed Chair of the Expert Group. This group commenced its work in May 2023 and it is envisaged that the group will have its work completed before the end of 2023.
Admissions Policy in Schools
The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, is an important piece of legislation which has introduced a more parent-friendly, equitable and consistent approach to how school admissions policy operates for the almost 4,000 primary and post-primary schools. All schools have drafted new admissions policies, which have been approved by the patron, following consultation with staff and parents of children who are attending the school. The newly revised school’s admissions policy is published on the schools website. It is a key requirement of the act that parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted.
The act is now fully operational and all the provisions have been commenced, these include;
- Sec 62 requiring schools that are not oversubscribed to admit all students who have applied for a place.
- Amendment of the Equal Status Act 2000 which removed, in the case of recognised denominational primary schools, the previous provision that permitted such schools to use religion as a selection criterion in school admissions.
- Waiting lists are banned, thus ensuring that parents who move in to a new area are not disadvantaged.
- All schools must publish their admissions policies, including details of their selection criteria.
- All schools must publish an annual admissions notice, detailing the dates the applications process takes place, including details of offers made the previous year if the school was oversubscribed.
- Charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for an application for admission to a school or for the enrolment or continued enrolment of a student in a school are prohibited.
- Section 8 setting out the steps requiring a school to open a special class or classes where the National Council for Special Education has identified a need for such provision within an area
- The Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Act 2022 further amended the Education Act of 1998 by providing for a shortened more streamlined section 37A process whereby the Minister can direct a school to make provision for children with special educational needs. The section 37A process is only used as a measure of last resort where additional provision is required in a specific location and efforts to secure that additional provision through engagement with schools has failed.
- The new act also streamlined Section 67 which provides for a situation where a child (with special needs or otherwise) cannot find a school place, and allows the National Council for Special Education or Tusla (Child and Family Agency) to designate a school place for the child.
Patronage of Schools
Irish society as a whole is in the process of major social, cultural and demographic change. One of the most complex and challenging aspects of reform in our school system is how best to deal with changes in school ethos and religious and moral education. There are very strong opposing views on these matters and the Minister for Education & Skills is endeavoring to provide the most reasonable and inclusive reforms in this area. The Government is committed to progressing the development of a dynamic and innovative education system that reflects the diversity of twenty-first Century Ireland.
Since 2011, new schools are generally only established in areas of demographic growth. The Department uses a Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, the Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and the Department's own databases. With this information, the Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises at primary and post-primary level to determine where additional school accommodation is needed.
The patronage process for new schools is overseen by the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). This independent advisory group was set up in 2011 to advise the Minister on the patronage of new schools following its consideration of a report prepared by the Department on the applications received.
Once it has been established from the demographic exercises that a new school, primary or post-primary, is required to meet the demographic need in a school planning area, a separate process is conducted to establish who will run the school.
It is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons to apply for patronage of a new school under the patronage process. Parental preferences for each patron, together with the extent of diversity currently available in the area, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process. The patronage process also incorporates consideration of, and the potential for, Irish-medium provision.
Prospective patrons at either primary or post-primary level must show evidence of parental demand, from the area to be served, for the model of provision proposed. Patrons and prospective patrons must therefore include a completed parental preference template as evidence of parental demand with each application for patronage.
Following consideration of all of the above, the results of the assessment are incorporated in a report for consideration by the NSEG. The NSEG review the contents of the patronage assessment report and then compile a report of its recommendations for consideration and final decision by the Minister.
Since the current arrangements were introduced in 2011, 30 new primary schools and 31 new post-primary schools have been established.
In early June 2018, the Minister for Education and Skills invited school patron bodies/prospective school patron bodies to apply for the patronage of four new post-primary schools due to be established in September 2019. This follows on from the Minister’s recent announcement for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four year period from 2019 to 2022.
The planned new schools were decided following on from a nationwide, forward-planning exercise carried out by the Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country. The four-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the schools.
A new Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) was launched on June 22 2018 to provide objective information to all parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education. This recognises that parental preferences for each patron, from parents/guardians of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.
The patronage determination process for new schools is overseen by the independent New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). This Group was set up in 2011 to advise the Minister on the patronage of new schools following its consideration of a report prepared by the Department on the applications received.
The schools will be established in line with the requirements and criteria originally announced in June 2011 for the patronage of new schools. Applicants must confirm they will comply with each of the requirements and criteria in order for their application to be processed.
The Department will subsequently compile a patronage report for the consideration of the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG) and the NSEG will submit a report with recommendations for consideration by the Minister.
The Applicant Patron(s) will have to be satisfy the following requirements, by confirming to:
Operate by the rules and regulations laid down in various Department of Education and Skills circulars and operating procedures and to follow the prescribed curriculum;
Operate the school within the resourcing and policy parameters established by the Department of Education and Skills;
Prioritise enrolment of children in the area(s) for which the Department has identified the need for a school;
Accept and open special education facilities;
Grow enrolment to the long-term projected enrolment identified by the Department;
Establish an Aonad where there is a demand for it (for a school where the primary medium of instruction is to be English);
Enter into the appropriate standard lease agreement with the Department of Education and Skills;
Share school buildings with other schools as may be determined by the Department should the building not be in full use;
Be part of a campus development with other primary or second-level schools as identified by the Department; and
Identify and source suitable interim accommodation, where deemed necessary by the Department, within the parameters set by the Department.
29 of the 30 new primary schools established are multi-denominational, and one is inter-denominational.
26 of the 31 new post-primary schools have multi-denominational ethos, 3 have Catholic ethos and one has a Church of Ireland ethos.
These outcomes are reflective of parental preferences in the areas where the schools are being established.
Multi-denominational patronage has been awarded in relation to 6 schools (1 primary and 5 post-primary) scheduled to open in 2018.
26 of the 27 new primary schools established are multi-denominational, and one is inter-denominational.
23 of the 27 new post-primary schools have multi-denominational ethos, 3 have Catholic ethos and one has a Church of Ireland ethos.
These outcomes are reflective of parental preferences in the areas where the schools are being established.
Patronage Divesting Process
On foot of the report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector in 2012, surveys of parental preferences were undertaken in a number of areas of stable population to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas.
Surveys were undertaken in 2012 and 2013. Analysis of the parental preferences expressed in each of the 43 areas surveyed indicated that there was sufficient parental demand supporting immediate changes in school patronage in 28 areas.
Following on from publication of the reports, the main patron (Catholic Bishop or Archbishop) in each of these 28 areas was asked to consider divesting options that would free up school accommodation for provision by the first choice alternative Patron.
Final reports on the options available were submitted by the existing Patrons, which enabled a targeted focus on areas where there were real possibilities for 2014 and 2015.
From 2013 to 2016, ten new schools have opened under the patronage divesting process.
Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process
The Government is committed to progressing the development of a dynamic and innovative education system that reflects the diversity of twenty-first Century Ireland. The Programme for a Partnership Government reflects the Government’s objective of strengthening parental choice and further expanding diversity in our school system. The desire of parents for diversity in education is primarily being pursued by increasing the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools with a view to reaching 400 by 2030.
In this context and given the modest pace of progress with the Patronage Divestment process (see above), the Minister for Education & Skills announced on 30th January, 2017 new plans aimed at providing more multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment in this area.
The new Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process supporting transfers of schools to multi-denominational patrons in response to the wishes of local families is based around principles of transparency and cooperation. Therefore, there will be a very substantial level of consultation of local communities in the process, both with the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) in the initial phase to establish evidence of demand by consulting pre-school parents and subsequently through the requirement for the existing patron to consult with local community and school interests in proposing to transfer patronage of an existing school to an alternative patron body. In that process, proposals from all prospective multi-denominational patrons that wish to be considered will be taken into account.
One primary school in Killarney, Co. Kerry opened in September, 2017 under the “early-movers” provision of the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process.
The Minister for Education & Skills believes this new process is of major importance to the future of education in Ireland, and to providing a system which reflects the changing needs of families.
Transition from Second Level to Higher Education
The report From Transaction to Transition: Outcomes of the Conference on the Transition from Second Level to Third Level Education in Ireland, published in 2011, set out a range of actions which could be taken to improve the transition process for students into higher education. The report arose from a joint commitment of the Higher Education Authority and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to examine this area, amid concerns that the current system of using the Leaving Certificate results for entry into college was having a negative impact on the quality of learning in upper secondary education. This was viewed as giving rise to a culture of rote learning and teaching to the test, and affecting the subsequent capacity of students to participate effectively in higher education.
The report focused on 3 areas:
Commitment to address any problematic predictability in the Leaving Certificate examinations;
Commitment to reduce the number of grade bands used in the marking of the Leaving Certificate examinations;
Commitment to significantly reduce the number of programme offerings for entry into honours bachelor degree programmes in higher education, and to offer much broader and common entry routes, reducing unnecessary specialisation in the early part of courses.
These actions are in addition to the general strategy of ongoing curriculum reform, (embedding of key skills, and broadening approaches to assessment) which form part of the Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle changes under way, and the reforms under the Strategy for Higher Education.
There have been no significant reforms in this area Q3 2018. Any policy changes in the coming months will be reported on in December 2018.
The changes to the Leaving Certificate Grading System and Common Points scale came into effect in 2017. Over 58,000 students sat the Leaving Certificate Examinations in 2017 and were marked under the new 8 band grading scale, down from the old 14 point scale. A key feature of the changes introduced to the Leaving Certificate grading is the award of 37 points for entry to higher education for a 30-39% result in a higher level paper. Prior to the change being introduced no points were awarded at this level. The change was introduced to encourage the take up of higher level papers in senior cycle and to reduce the risk to the student who opts for a higher level examination. As a result of this change, the take up of higher level papers increased from 63% in 2016 to 66.3% in 2017, the recent trend on its own would have predicted an increase of approximately 1.3% only.
There were over 80,000 applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) in 2017 for entry to higher education. All applicants through the CAO in 2017 were scored using the new Common Points Scale, regardless of when they sat the Leaving Certificate.
The new Common Points Scale was designed to minimise the use of random selection. Random selection occurs where applicants receive the same score and are randomly selected for a course place. By introducing different interval between points scored, far fewer students will achieve the same points score. The number of courses for which random selection applied in the first round of 2017 CAO higher education offers was reduced by approximately 50% in 2017, following the introduction of the new Common Points Scale.
The strategy is continuing. The new grading arrangements for the Leaving Certificate and the points system for higher education entry will come into effect in 2017.
A new on-line resource Get Ready for Education: a Learning Journey has been developed by a consortium of higher education institutions to help second level students prepare for the challenges of higher education. The courses are available on-line or as a blended learning option. They cover five areas -- student orientation, discovering learning, critical and creative thinking, digital literacy and communications and responsible citizenship.