Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Status.

Cecilia Keaveney


1022 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to revise the disadvantaged status of the country's national schools in view of the fact that many anomalies exist between schools within a similar catchment area and a substantial advantage is being lost by a number of very deserving schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19884/00]

I have set the tackling of educational disadvantage as a priority and will be bringing forward proposals for a major initiative to address the needs of pupils who are encountering educational disadvantage in primary schools.

As a first step in this process, the Educational Research Centre issued a comprehensive questionnaire to all primary schools in April of this year. The analysis by the education centre of the responses from schools is nearing completion. This will allow for an accurate identification of levels of disadvantage in every primary school.

Based on the levels of need identified, my objective is to introduce a range of significant and specifically targeted interventions, which will ensure that disadvantaged children receive the support they require to enable them to succeed in school. The interventions in question will take the form of extra teacher support or extra funding, or both, depending on the nature and level of need identified.

I expect to make a further announcement in relation to this matter in the near future.

Cecilia Keaveney


1023 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the recently published Music in Education Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19885/00]

I have read the Music in Education Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science with great interest.

In relation to primary education, I am pleased to note the unambiguous support expressed in the report for the aims, objectives, new emphases and overall methodologies of the revised music programme designed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and introduced to schools in the last school year. The phased formal implementation of the revised curriculum in schools is being linked to the delivery of the heavily resourced primary curriculum support programme, PCSP, for schools in co-operation with the Education Centre network. Phasing will not preclude schools from introducing any area of the curriculum, such as music, prior to the provision of in-career development in that area. The training strategy in the case of music, when activated, will be informed by experience gained in supporting the implementation of other areas of the revised curriculum.

The availability and use of specialist music teaching skills in primary schools is dealt with comprehensively in the teacher guidelines accompanying the revised music programme. The PCSP training phase will make use of highly skilled practitioners who will assist schools in the successful implementation of the programme. In the longer term, this expertise will be added to that already available to schools through education centres, some of which provide ongoing in-career development activity in music and act as an invaluable resource for teachers in a variety of ways, with potential to develop new strategies in the teaching of music.

My Department's inspectorate will continue to advise and support schools and individual teachers on matters pertaining to curriculum implementation. In addressing the quality of teaching and learning in schools, the process of whole school evaluation will include all aspects of the integrated curriculum in primary schools, while music may be included as a subject for specific evaluation in planning an evaluation of a second level school. School development planning, which is now the focus of substantial support from my Department, affords schools opportunities to plan the structured implementation of the music programme under the guidance of the school leadership and, where possible, to include curriculum development and support as tasks within their in-school management structures.

I note the report's emphasis on the importance of performance and participation, specifically in the area of instrumental music, as part of chil dren's school music activity and the link to the need for appropriate assessment. The curriculum documentation generally stresses the integration of the listening, performing and composing strands of the programme while, in addition to providing very helpful advice on the promotion of pupils' instrumental skills, the teacher guidelines outline the purposes and methodology of assessment within the teaching and learning cycle.
I have noted in particular the committee's views on matters relating to the design and assessment of second level music syllabi and its concern over examination outcomes. I will undertake to pass those views to the NCCA for consideration in its ongoing programme of syllabus review.
The joint committee places particular emphasis on a variety of support mechanisms, whether state or privately funded, for school based music education. Primary and second level schools are encouraged to make use of music resources within the school community, such as those identified by the committee, and they welcome the commendable outreach policies of a growing number of arts groups to engage with schools in order to enrich pupils' musical experience. In relation to services provided by local authority arts officers, I will be pleased to explore the potential of such services for schools with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands.