The 2017 Action Plan for Education has been launched by my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, and contains over 400 actions and sub actions to be implemented in 2017 by the Department, its agencies and others across government. Importantly, timelines and points of responsibility have also been assigned.
It is based on five high-level goals, with an overall ambition to make Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe by 2026:
- Improve the learning experience and the success of learners
- Improve the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage or learners with special educational needs
- Help those delivering education services to continually improve
- Build stronger bridges between education and the wider community
- Improve national planning and support services.
Among the headline actions announced as part of the 2017 plan are:
Gaeilge and Gaeltacht: Implement the Gaeltacht Education Strategy including publication of the arrangements for Gaeltacht school recognition process; commence support and advice to schools, and commence drafting the tendering process for expanded initial Teacher Education provision.
Wellbeing: Every school will be required to have dedicated guidance counselling time available for students; implement Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme; appoint an additional 10 NEPs psychologists and establish a wellbeing steering committee to develop policy statement and identify gaps in existing services.
Technology in education: Implementation of computer science leaving cert subject brought forward 12 months to September 2018; development of computational thinking and coding through new maths curriculum at primary; new advisory group led by industry and experts to develop new plans for greater use of technology in education
Disadvantage: Shortly publish our Plan for future supports to tackle educational disadvantage, building on existing DEIS supports, with new schools being phased into DEIS from next September; develop a School Excellence Fund and commence pilot, initially in DEIS schools
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; hold quarterly meetings between education and enterprise
Research: New initiatives to attract world-leading researchers to Ireland, particularly in the context of Brexit
Costs: Publish a strong circular with an emphasis on reducing costs to parents, including school uniform costs
After school care provision: Publish guidelines for the use of school buildings out of hours, following engagement with property owners and school authorities (e.g. to provide afterschool care provision for school age children to offer more options and flexibility to parents)
Languages: new foreign languages strategy to outline new languages options and ambitious targets; consideration to be given to greater use of “CLIL”, or teaching of mainstream subjects through second and third languages, as means of teaching Irish and other languages in a more effective way at primary and secondary
Infrastructure: complete 46 large-scale building projects; provide 6,000 additional permanent post primary places in 2017
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; complete a comprehensive assessment of the Special Needs Assistants (SNA) scheme
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; finalise drafting of Higher Education Reform Bill.