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Government launches Action Plan for Education aimed at becoming the best education service in Europe

15th September 2016 - Fine Gael Press Office

Hundreds of actions to be implemented with particular focus on disadvantage, skills, and continuous improvement within the education service

New implementation structures to include quarterly progress reports and updated plan published at the start of each year

The Government today (Thursday) launched the first Action Plan for Education, led by Minister Richard Bruton, aimed at making the Irish education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.
The plan builds on the successful model of the Action Plan for Jobs, pioneered by Minister Bruton as Minister for Jobs. In early 2012, when the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched, unemployment was at 15.1%; at the time of the most recent figures, an extra 190,000 jobs had been created and unemployment had fallen to 8.3%.

This plan, which incorporates the Department of Education’s Strategy Statement as well as the Action Plan for Education, outlines hundreds of actions and sub-actions to be implemented across 2016-2019, with timelines and lead responsibility assigned. This is not a comprehensive list of everything that will be done: at the start of 2017, and in each subsequent year, we will publish an updated annual Action Plan for Education which will contain further actions to be implemented in that year. Publication of quarterly implementation reports and continuous consultation with stakeholders and members of the Oireachtas will be central to the process.

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

Disadvantage– a new ambitious DEIS plan published by end-2016 which will pioneer new approaches for delivering results; DEIS schools to hit the national average for school retention levels, within the next decade (an increase of at least 9%); a 30% increase in the number of students from disadvantaged areas attending higher level; five-fold increase in the reach of the Incredible Years teacher programme for DEIS schools; six-fold increase in the reach of the Friends programme aimed at supporting children in difficulty.

Subject choice –including rolling out coding to primary schools from 2018, teaching of computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject, and processes to introduce teaching of new languages such as Mandarin at second level and to enhance teaching of languages at third level.

Skills– recognising that the ‘war for talent’ is now one of the most important factors for job-creation, ambitious action to be developed and implemented including a total of 100 apprenticeship schemes and 50 traineeship schemes delivering 50,000 registrations between now and 2020; 25% increase in increase access to work experience at higher level; 25% increase in flexible learning; an entrepreneurship education plan.

Mental health and Wellbeing – roll out a national programme to support the implementation of Wellbeing Guidelines to all primary and post-primary schools; Implement Wellbeing at Junior Cycle; publish the 2015 Lifeskills survey, providing information on how schools cater for the wellbeing of their students.

Parents/children– ensure that the voices of the service users are made more central to the system by developing a Parents and Learners Charter on a statutory basis.

Costs – new measures to tackle the costs of schools for parents including a requirement on schools to take consideration of the needs of parents when taking decisions that have a financial impact, a strong new circular to schools regarding uniform costs (which will be developed taking into account the views of parents), and extra funding for book rental schemes as resources permit.

Leadership– better mentoring for newly appointed school principals, a coaching service for existing school principals, and a postgraduate qualification for aspiring school principals.

Improvement – over366,000 hours of continuous professional development for teachers by 2017 (a 4.5% increase on 2016); a new centre of excellence, integrating existing supports, to support in-school improvement and peer exchange, and a school excellence fund to support innovation.

Special educational needs – establish a new Inclusion Support Service to bring together various services to better support children with special educational needs.

School building programme – aimed at delivering over 60,000 additional permanent school places, over 300 extensions to existing schools and build 14 new schools by 2021.

Teacher education – Launch a competitive call to increase access to teacher education by students from members of the Irish Traveller community, students with disabilities and students from under-represented socio-economic groups and communities.

Gaeltacht – Publish and implement an education strategy for the Gaeltacht

In preparing this Action Plan, the Minister for Education and Skills engaged with 125 stakeholder organisations and with members of the Oireachtas, and also received a total of 600 submissions, many from members of the public. The Minister will now refer the Action Plan to the Oireachtas Committee for further consultation in advance of its formal adoption as the Department’s Strategy Statement. The Minister looks forward to engaging further with the committee.

Today’s launch took place at St Brigid’s Convent School in the Coombe. St Brigid’s is a DEIS Band One School. This vibrant school community is at the heart of the Liberties. St. Brigid’s Primary school has a long history of working to tackle education disadvantage since it was founded in 1887. A key pillar of the plan is built around tackling educational disadvantage.

An Taoiseach, said:

“The key priority of this government is to protect our economy and use it to make people’s lives better. So in using the successful template of the Action Plan for Jobs, the Action Plan for Education brings opportunity and potential to every home, every pupil, every educator. It seeks to make Ireland the best education system in Europe. It is the way we ensure equality of opportunity, success, hope and break the cycle of disadvantage. I am delighted to launch this Plan with Ministers Bruton and Halligan, and look forward to receiving regular progress reports on its implementation.”

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD said:

“The basic aim of this Government is to use our economic success to build a fair and compassionate society. Excellent and innovative education and training are the pivot around which personal fulfilment, a fair society and a successful nation should revolve. It is central to sustaining economic success and in converting economic success into building a strong community. Our ambition in the Action Plan for Education is to make Ireland the best education and training service in Europe. This will mean that we can provide better opportunities for more people from disadvantaged groups, as well as ensuring we create more sustainable well-paying jobs.”

“In this plan, our high ambitions are matched by specific actions to deliver on them, across all parts of the education service. Actions are aimed at improving outcomes for the learners who depend on the service, at breaking cycles of disadvantage, at supporting teachers and institutions to continually improve, at building better links between education and the broader community, and at improving our systems on which we depend to deliver all this.”

“There is no big bang solution. Rather, the cumulative impact of the implementation of the hundreds of actions and sub actions in the Action Plan will have a lasting and positive impact on the Irish educational and training sector”.

“I believe we can work together with all the people who work in and depend on the education and training service to, collectively, make it into the best in Europe and deliver on the goals that we have set ourselves as a country.”

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, John Halligan TD said:

“As Minister for Training and Skills, I have an especially close involvement with the world of Further Education and Training. I am delighted that this area is strongly represented in our Action Plan for Education and is strongly integrated into each of the thematic goals.”

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