Monday 23 April 2018

We'll be top of the European class in decade, claims Bruton

Minister Richard Bruton Picture: Tom Burke
Minister Richard Bruton Picture: Tom Burke
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Richard Bruton is making a bold promise to turn Ireland's education and training system into the best in Europe within a decade.

The education minister, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, will today launch an ambitious Action Plan for Education, aimed at laying the foundations of a service that works better for individuals and the country.

He said fairness will be at the heart of policy-making in his department.

A feature of the plan, which covers 2016 to 2019 and will be updated at the start of each year, will be three-monthly reviews to track progress under hundreds of different headings,

While the Action Plan for Education is a three-year strategy, it presents a longer-term vision. It will set out more than 130 main actions, each of which will have multiple sub-actions.

Tackling educational disadvantage will be one of its pillars, and Mr Bruton said there will be new approaches to supporting schools in helping their pupils achieve their potential.

One of the minister's intentions is to increase the number of pupils in schools in disadvantaged areas, under the umbrella of his department's DEIS programme, who do their Leaving Certificate, and bring it up to national norms within a decade.

Around one in four schools in the country are in the DEIS programme. Ninety per cent of students who start second-level go on to do the Leaving Certificate, but in DEIS schools the figure is 83pc compared with 92pc in non-disadvantaged communities.

Among the actions to tackle disadvantage are significant increases in the reach of two programmes focusing on children's emotional needs that are currently employed in a limited number of DEIS schools.

The next three years will see a fivefold expansion of the Incredible Years programme - designed to prevent and treat emotional and behavioural difficulties in three to 10-year-olds - from 130 schools with 20,000 pupils to 626 schools with 104,000 pupils.

Mr Bruton is pledging a sixfold increase in a programme called Friends for Life, targeted at older primary age children and aimed at building resilience and reducing anxiety in children and young people. The programme is currently delivered to 25,000 pupils in 275 schools, and the aim is to expand that by 2019 to 172,000 pupils in 831 schools.

The Action Plan for Education is the first such and follows a consultation process in which more than 200 organisations, as well as members of the public, were invited to make submission about priority areas for action.

It builds on the model of the Action Plan for Jobs pioneered by Mr Bruton in his last ministerial role, a key plank of which was regular monitoring of what was being achieved. Since that plan was rolled out in early 2012, 18,000 jobs have been created, helping to reduce unemployment from 15pc to close to 8pc.

Speaking ahead of today's launch, Mr Bruton said few areas were more pivotal to Ireland's ambitions as a nation than education.

"I believe we can work together with all the people who work in and depend on the education and training service to collectively make the Irish education and training system the best in Europe and to de- liver on the goals that we have set ourselves as a country," he said.

"Excellent and innovative education and training are the pivot around which personal fulfilment, a fair society and a successful nation should revolve."

Irish Independent

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