Mary Mitchell O’Connor details the Fine Gael policy on:

Education

This Government’s ambition is to build a knowledge society. Education is at the heart of a more cohesive, more equal and more successful society, and it will be the engine of sustainable economic growth. Ireland has experienced a decline in educational outcomes in recent years. We will draw from top performing education models like Finland to reverse this trend. Even in our country’s crisis, we can make progress in education and protect frontline services.

Early Childhood Care and Education

We will maintain the free pre-school year in Early Childhood Care and Education to promote the best outcomes for children and families. We will improve the quality of the pre-school year by implementing standards and reviewing training options. As resources allow, this Government will invest in a targeted early childhood education programme for disadvantaged children, building on existing targeted pre-school supports for families most in need of assistance such as the young ballymun project.

Empowering Schools to Improve Standards

A priority in education will be to recruit, train and support the highest calibre of teachers.

School leadership will be fundamental to furthering this aim.

We will give greater freedom and autonomy to school principals and boards to raise educational standards by devolving more responsibility locally, with greater freedom to allocate and manage staff with required flexibility and to delegate management responsibilities to teachers as school priorities require.

We will require schools, with the support of the Inspectorate, to draw up five year development plans for their schools and individual teachers.

Administrative functions, relating to maintenance, school building projects and coordination of support services currently carried out by principals will be devolved locally.

Protecting the Frontline

Education will be a priority for this Government. It will endeavour to protect and enhance the educational experience of children, young people and students. To that end, it will endeavour to protect frontline services in education, and seek efficiencies in work and school practices, in line with the Croke Park Agreement.

Improving Outcomes

A longer term aim of this Government will be to position Ireland in the top ten performing countries in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

We will review Junior and Leaving Certificate systems and implement reforms necessary to encourage greater innovation and independent learning, building on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s work in this area.

Maths and science teaching at second level will be reformed, including making science a compulsory Junior Cert subject by 2014. Professional development for maths and science teachers will be prioritised.

The system for evaluating schools will be reformed so parents have access to more information when choosing a school for their family. A new system of self-evaluation will be introduced, requiring all schools to evaluate their own performance year on year and publish information across a wide range of criteria.

A bonus points system for maths, which is linked to specific maths or science courses, will be introduced to encourage greater participation in courses where skills shortages currently exist.

Making Literacy a National Cause

This Government believes that no child should leave an Irish school unable to read and write.

A national literacy strategy for children and young people will be developed as a matter of urgency, with school-level targets that are related to national targets. Every school will be required to have a literacy action plan, with demonstrable outcomes. Responsibility for achieving these outcomes will be vested in the school principals, who will also receive continuous professional development to support the implementation of the strategy.

Pre-service and in-service training in teaching of literacy for all primary and secondary school teachers will be improved, with dedicated literacy mentors to work intensively with teachers in most disadvantaged primary schools.

Together with a new focus on how literacy is taught, time spent on quality literacy tuition is important. DEIS primary schools will be required to teach literacy for 120 minutes per day; non-DEIS schools to teach literacy for 90 minutes per day. This time includes incorporating structured literacy tuition into teaching of other subjects.

Local authorities will be supported in developing Right to Read campaigns involving community supports for literacy, from within existing budgets such as more spacious social housing, longer opening hours for libraries, homework clubs and summer camps that improve literacy through sport and games.

21st Century Schools

This Government will end the treatment of ICT in education as a stand-alone issue, but will integrate it across education policy. This will begin with merging the National Centre for Technology in Education with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

A new plan to develop ICT in teaching, learning and assessment will be developed. This plan will incorporate the integration of ICT policy across other agencies, such as the Professional Development Services for Teachers, the State Examinations Commission, and Project Maths.

The primary priority for investment in ICT in the immediate term will be the integration of ICT in teaching and learning across the curriculum and investing in broadband development to ensure schools have access to fibre-powered broadband. Investment in ICT will be maximised through pooling of ICT procurement.

Greater use of online platforms will be made to offer a wide range of subjects and lessons online, and to enable schools to ‘share’ teachers via live web casts. These online lessons will be made available through a new Digital School Resource, bringing together existing resources from National Council for Curriculum Assessment, Department of Education and other sources as a cost effective means of sharing expertise between schools.

We will engage with the publishing industry to develop more online learning resources and new mediums for their learning materials.

Building Schools for the Future

This Government will prioritise school building projects in a revised national development plan.

The objective of this Government will be to progressively phase out the inefficient renting of school prefabs. In the interim the negotiation of prefab rental contracts will be part of a reformed public procurement policy to encourage greater value for money, transparency and reduce dependency on temporary accommodation.

The devolution of an annual capital budget to schools will be piloted to allow schools to plan for capital projects.

The Department of Education’s central database of school accommodation will be overhauled to ensure a complete inventory of school buildings and associated structures is maintained so deficiencies are easily identifiable.

In areas of demographic growth, Shared Educational Campuses will be the preferred model for future development of educational infrastructure. New schools will be built to grow with their communities and to provide for more interactive, child-friendly model of education.

Local authorities will be required to complete Educational Impact Assessment on residential zoning, to identify potential need for schools. We will negotiate the transfer of school infrastructure currently owned by 18 religious orders cited in Ryan Report, at no extra cost, to the State. In principle, school buildings and land will be zoned for educational use, so that they cannot easily be sold and lost to system.

Delivering Equity in Education

We will consider recommendations of the review of the DEIS programme and use it as platform for new initiatives to deliver better outcomes for students in disadvantaged areas.

We will examine how to make existing expenditure on educational disadvantage more effective, and innovative ways in which teenagers at risk of leaving school system can stay connected, for example through use of ICT-based distance learning and projects such as iScoil.

We will publish a plan for the implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004 to prioritise access for children with special needs to an individual education plan. The priority will be to move to a system where necessary supports follow a child from primary to second level and to achieve greater integration of special needs-related services.

We will support diversity in education of children with special needs, recognising that both intensive education and mainstreaming can be seen to work for individual children.

We recognise the critical importance of early diagnosis of autism and early intervention and address current deficits in this area. We will reverse the cut to the number of psychologists in National Educational Psychological Service in Budget 2011.

We will encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students.

We will improve co-ordination and integration to delivery of services to the Traveller community across all Government departments, using available resources more effectively to deliver on principles of social inclusion, particularly in area of Traveller education through the DEIS programme.

We will examine supports in place for gifted students and create improved links with third level institutions on regional basis, to provide gifted students with access to new programmes or educational resources.

Reform of the Junior Cycle
The Department is hosting a number of information meetings on the reform of the Junior Cycle for Principals and Deputy Principals around the country.  These seminars are being held at the request of the organisations that represent school management.

Download a copy of the presentation: A Framework for the Junior Cycle Presentation

Date

Region

Venue

Duration

Contact Email

20/02/2013 Blackrock Killiney Castle Afternoon Sandra Kinsella
21/02/2013 Dublin West Dublin West EC Full Day Sandra Kinsella
22/02/2013 Limerick Castletroy Park Hotel Full Day Tony O’Shea
25/02/2013 Kilkenny Kilkenny EC Full Day Paul Fields
28/02/2013 Donegal Donegal EC Afternoon Sandra Johnston
01/03/2013 Sligo Clarion Hotel Full Day Angela Currid
04/03/2013 Cork Oriel House, Ballincollig Full Day Carol WelsteadorMaura Buckley
05/03/2013 Cork Oriel House, Ballincollig Full Day Carol WelsteadorMaura Buckley
06/03/2013 Athlone Athlone EC Full Day Christina Collier
07/03/2013 Blackrock Killiney Castle Morning Sandra Kinsella
15/03/2013 Galway Claregalway Hotel Full Day Maire Lohan
21/03/2013 Cavan Errigal Hotel, Cootehill Afternoon Rosemary Cadwell
22/03/2013 City North City North Hotel, Gormanstown Full Day Rosemary Cadwell

- See more at: http://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Events/Reform-of-the-Junior-Cycle-/Reform-of-the-Junior-Cycle.html#sthash.LtJHqlaK.dpuf

To view the Framework for Junior Cycle document published by the Minister for Education, Spring 2013, click here