We must plan ahead to improve education system – O’Connor

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Monday), called for an emphasis on forward planning for education as economic conditions improve.

“In Budget 2015, funding was made available for 1,700 new teachers, resource teachers and SNAs in our schools. Great strides have been made in improving the education system in Ireland; the VEC has been restructured from 33 VECs to 16 Education & Training Boards (ETBs) and SOLAS, a new Further Education & Training Authority has been established. These changes are very positive and will make a huge difference to young people around the country, but now it is time to plan ahead and to especially think about making apprenticeships available to all and providing training for University lecturers.

“Ireland is attracting investment and creating jobs largely due to the fact that we have a highly skilled workforce available. Education has been a key driver in the economic recovery and we need to assure that this continues into the future.

“Academic excellence and research are vital, but there is also a need for more teaching skills and pastoral care training in our University sector. These educators are not supported to the degree that second level and primary teachers are, and in order to assure the highest of standards, we need to look to investing in this area.

“Although there are thousands of tradespeople in Ireland, more people are needed in this area and it is essential that we facilitate training in every way possible. It is sometimes difficult to get apprenticeships, so there should be a stimulus for apprenticeships outside the traditional master-apprentice system. IT skills should also be included in apprenticeships, and where possible, if people have the desire, they should be able to continue academic education, alongside the apprenticeship.

“Ireland is a leader when it comes to education; our 15-year-olds are the 4th best in reading and significantly above OECD average in science and maths, we had the highest ever 2nd level education completion rate of 93%, above OECD average in 2012. Reform is continuing with the publication of the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011 to 2020.

“However now is not the time to be complacent. As the economy improves we must be measured and strategic in how we advance our education system. Education is vital to the success of the Irish economy and I intend to work with my Government colleagues to plan ahead and continue to develop this sector.”

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