Richard Bruton confident teachers will be able to teach coding across all levels

Education Minister Richard Bruton is confident teachers will be properly equipped to teach coding and computer science from primary up to Leaving Certificate levels.

He gave the assurances after making a commitment that computer science will be available as a subject for Leaving Certificate to students starting at fifth year in September 2018.

The first phase of developing the course was completed last year and the Department of Education should provide feedback by early summer to the National Council of Curriculum and Assessment on the draft curriculum. A steering group led by NCCA must develop and oversee an implementation plan for the subject’s introduction by the end of this year, with a view to making it a Leaving Certificate choice.

The proposal is one of 400 planned activities set out in the Government’s 2017 education action plan, published yesterday by Mr Bruton. The plan also includes, by year end, the beginning of consultations around coding being included as one area of a revised maths curriculum for primary schools.

Asked if teachers will be sufficiently trained to teach these new subjects, the minister said the NCCA would consult teachers and other interests in the development of the programmes.

“Following the agreement of that programme, we move into a stage where teachers are supported through up-skilling to ensure they are in a position to deliver it,” said Mr Bruton.

“This is a planned programme, it’s not that you are throwing something out on people unprepared.”

The 2017 action plan obliges his department to publish quarterly updates on progress on each commitment in the plan.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny high-fives pupils at Loreto Senior Primary School,Crumlin, where he and Education Minister Richard Bruton launched Action Plan for Education 2017.

An end-of-2016 report on other commitments in last September’s 2016-2019 education action plan shows nearly one in five targets for last year were not met.

Mr Bruton was unable, for example, to publish a strategy on foreign languages in education or the educational inclusion plan which will include new ways of identifying which schools get extra supports to tackle disadvantage.

The inclusion plan is expected to be published instead later this month and will lead to an unknown number of extra schools getting resources under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools programme.

Also due for publication by the end of March is a report on barriers to lone parents accessing third-level education.

Consultations have yet to be completed with education stakeholders about implementing more elements of the 2004 Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act which were to have finished by the end of last year.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne said plans are being published by Mr Bruton and Government colleagues almost every week, but many are not being backed up with the necessary resources.

“Action plans are being pumped out at an unmerciful rate but, unfortunately, they aren’t being followed through with actual action on the ground,” he said.

“The minister needs to realise that announcing plans alone doesn’t fix problems, he has to actually put in place the resources to achieve the goals contained in these plans.”

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