School use after hours is one of 400 actions in new plan
Guidelines for the use of school buildings out of hours, for after school care, will be published within months, Education Minister Richard Bruton has promised
Mr Bruton is engaging with school property owners and authorities, mainly the Catholic Church, about making the facilities available after the school day finishes.
The minister wants better use made of such properties to allow for more options for parents around school age childcare.
He has promised to publish the guidelines before the end of June, one of hundreds of targets set out in an Action Plan for Education 2017, released yesterday.
The plan outlines more than 400 actions and sub-actions to be implemented this year, with timelines for each action.
Mr Bruton said it was based on an overall ambition to make Ireland's education and training system the best in Europe by 2026.
It covers a wide range of areas from early years education to school admissions, curricular reform, technology in schools, the roll-out of more apprenticeships and student housing.
The implementation of a Leaving Cert subject in computer science is being brought forward 12 months to September 2016.
Mr Bruton also said it was his "ambition that coding will come in for the junior element of primary schools in 2018".
Asked whether teachers were sufficiently trained to teach coding, Mr Bruton said that once the programme was devised "we move into a stage where the teachers are supported though upskilling to ensure they were in a position to deliver it".
This year will also see the return of ring-fenced guidance counselling in second-level schools, which Mr Bruton said would be available to students experiencing difficulties with their wellbeing.
There is a new focus on student welfare, including the implementation in September of the new Junior Cycle wellbeing programme and the appointment of 10 more school psychologists.
Another headline action due soon is the publication of the new plan to support educational disadvantage, with more schools to be added to the programme from next September.
Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) said the plan needed to be backed with adequate resources.
Educate Together welcomed the commitment to start discussions with existing and prospective school patrons on potential "early movers".
These are schools where a desire for the divestment has already been expressed.