Government promises to implement 400 actions from education plan this year

Update 5pm. Barnardos has welcomed the Government’s Action Plan for Education 2017, which was published this morning, but warned it does not go far enough to address social disadvantages.

"We also welcome the Minister’s statement that ‘no other area of Government activity has greater capacity to change our country for the better’, and the recognition that education can break down the barriers that exist for groups at risk of social exclusion, and can promote social inclusion," June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said in a statement.

"However, it is unfortunate, given these declarations that the plan does not go far enough to achieve these social ambitions.

"For instance, we cannot tackle social disadvantage simply through the DEIS system. We know over 56% of children living in disadvantaged and deprived areas do not attend DEIS schools. Viewing disadvantage through DEIS is far too narrow a lens to achieve real change. The Plan also fails to show any vision in terms of tackling school costs. Creating a more equal system must begin by ensuring all children have what they need to learn."

Schoolchildren pictured at the launch of the action plan for education.

Earlier: Educate Together has welcomed the Minister Bruton’s updated Action Plan for Education 2017, published this morning

In a statement, it said: “Most encouraging in the plan is the central role the Department of Education sees that parents have to play in the overall process of delivering change in Irish education.

"Also welcome is the inclusion of students in the Charter to be developed. Students’ perspective and rights should be central to all policy development.”

Earlier: The government has published its first update of the action plan for education, promising to implement 400 actions this year.

The plan - first published last September - aims to make Ireland's education and training system the best in Europe by 2026.

Every school will be required to have dedicated time for guidance counselling, reduce costs for parents including for uniforms, and the Minister is promising to publish guidelines for the use of school buildings after hours for childcare.

Richard Bruton pictured with a national school pupil at the launch of the action plan for education.

Among the headline actions announced as part of today’s 2017 plan are:

  • Costs: Publish a strong circular with an emphasis on reducing costs to parents, including school uniform costs.
  • Wellbeing: Every school will be required to have dedicated guidance counselling time available for students.
  • Special Educational Needs: Introduce the new model for allocation of teachers in mainstream schools to support children with SEN; establish a new Inclusion Support Service.
  • Skills: Develop 13 new apprenticeships and 2 new traineeships in 2017; review work experience at post primary; develop innovative responses to address skills shortages in ICT languages and biopharma.
  • After school care provision: Publish guidelines for the use of school buildings out of hours, following engagement with property owners and school authorities.
  • Infrastructure: Complete 46 large-scale building projects; provide 6,000 additional permanent post primary places in 201.7
  • Technology in education: Implementation of computer science Leaving Cert subject brought forward 12 months to September 2018.
  • Disadvantage: Shortly publish government plan for future supports to tackle educational disadvantage, building on existing DEIS supports, with new schools being phased into DEIS from next September
  • Languages: New foreign languages strategy to outline new languages options and ambitious targets.
  • Third level: New higher education funding model (RGAM) to be in place for 2018 budget; publish policy review to design and implement a multi-annual funding model involving increased Exchequer and employer contributions from 2018.

Richard Bruton and Enda Kenny pictured with school pupils at the launch of the action plan for education.

The introduction of computer science as a leaving cert subject is to be brought forward by a year to September 2018.

Introducing computer science to secondary schools was one of the recommendations made by the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) education review group in its report on improving the teaching of STEM subjects in primary and secondary schools.

The new course, which was not originally to begin until 2019, will focus on computational thinking and coding.

The authors of the government-commissioned STEM report said the quality of second level education in STEM subjects was essential to ensuring pupils fare better in third-level STEM courses and in the workplace.

The Education Minister says he hopes junior cert students in ASTI schools will not lose out on 10% marks for class based assessment.

The union's refusing to co-operate with reform of the exam and members rejected a proposed deal on this and a number of other disputes last week.

Richard Bruton says: "The State Examination Commission has made clear that the assesment task in the Junior Cycle can be continued to be implemented for every child, there's no reason why every child should not get full access to the State Examination's opportunity."

The department also wants to attract more top- level researchers to Ireland.

Last week, UCC’s new president, Patrick O’Shea, said one of his key goals was to attract more research funding and international investment to UCC, as the UK leaves the EU.

A plan to support disadvantaged schools is also to be introduced, with more schools being given Deis supports, and a “school excellence fund” will be developed for the sector.

Work experience schemes are to be reviewed in secondary schools and 13 new apprenticeships developed.

“Innovative responses” to skills shortages in ICT, languages, and biopharma are to be introduced this year and a strategy developed so that more foreign languages can be introduced in schools, allowing other subjects to be taught through these languages and through Irish.

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