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Education | Second and Third level education staffing

To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which second and third level education continues to focus on the need to supply suitably qualified staff, in both the public and private sectors, in areas currently experiencing difficulties in obtaining and retaining staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Further and Higher Education has responsibility for qualifications relevant to employment in public and private sectors. As outlined in the mission statement, my Department will facilitate children and young people, through learning, to achieve their full potential and contribute to Ireland’s social, economic and cultural development. The primary mechanism to deliver this is through the curriculum, providing a sound basis of appropriate inputs, enabling learners to progress through the continuum of education to further and higher education, and the word of work.

In that context, my Department is represented on the Cross Departmental Project Team (CDPT) which is being led by the OECD who are reviewing the National Skills Strategy 2016-2025, in order to draft an updated Skills Strategy for Ireland.

My Department also has policy initiatives in place addressing particular areas which may be of relevance to the question. The Digital Strategy for Schools to 2027 with the aim of empowering schools to further embed digital technologies across their teaching, learning and assessment.  It sets out how the development of digital skills is supported in schools and builds on the key achievements under the previous strategy. The STEM Education Policy Statement recognises the importance of initiatives that raise awareness and interest in STEM among the public in Ireland to enable them to engage in informed STEM discussions. It also recognises the need to improve STEM education. Development of the next STEM Education Policy Implementation Plan (delayed due to Covid19) is underway with a public consultation and focus group consultations completed to date.

Post-primary education in Ireland consists of a  three year junior cycle, followed by a two or three year senior cycle, depending on whether the optional transition year is taken.

At Junior Cycle, the Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 provides the basis for post-primary schools to plan quality, inclusive and relevant education programmes with improved learning experiences for all students, including those with special educational needs.

The Senior Cycle includes an optional transition year (TY) which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle. TY provides an opportunity for students to experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience, over the course of a year that is free from formal examinations.

During the final two years of Senior Cycle, students take one of three programmes, each leading to a state examination, the Leaving Certificate Established, the Leaving Certificate Vocational  programme or the Leaving Certificate Applied.

The Leaving Certificate Established is a two-year programme that aims to provide learners with a broad, balanced education while also offering some specialisation towards a particular career option. Subjects are assessed by an examination paper and by additional assessment methods including oral and aural examinations, practical examinations and assessment of practical coursework at the end of the two-year programme of study. Performance in the examination can be used for purposes of selection into employment, and into further and higher education.

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme is a two-year programme that combines the academic strengths of the Leaving Certificate with a dynamic focus on self-directed learning, enterprise, work and the community.  

The Leaving Certificate Applied is a two-year Leaving Certificate, available to students who wish to follow a practical or vocationally orientated programme. The Leaving Certificate Applied is made up of a range of courses that are structured around three elements: Vocational Preparation, Vocational Education and General Education.

I have announced an ambitious programme to redevelop Senior Cycle which includes:

  • expanding access to Transition Year so that all students who wish to can avail of the opportunity it presents;
  • integrating the current three Leaving Certificate programmes over time to ensure students can access the different strengths of the current programmes and to ensure all students can have access to the maximum number of pathways beyond school in terms of accessing work, apprenticeships or further study;
  • introducing two new subjects from September 2024 which reflect the variety of interest amongst students and changing employment prospects for students as they progress from school and study; and
  • significantly changing the way learning is assessed so that there is a greater balance between the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills.

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