As the Deputy will be aware, the report of the Commission on the Points System recommends that the points system be retained on the basis that it is well established, is broadly fair and transparent and is generally accepted by the public at large. Nonetheless, the report identified a number of weaknesses and drawbacks in the current system and makes recommendations on a wide range of issues including lifelong learning, access to third level education for mature students, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students with disabilities, entry to healthcare courses and the leaving certificate grading and points system.
On the question of access to third level education, I appointed an action group last September, chaired by Dr. Cormac MacNamara, to advise me on the development of a co-ordinated framework to promote access by students with disabilities, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and mature second chance students. The group was asked to consider the specific interventions which would be most effective in making further progress in this area. I have now received the report of the action group. At present I am considering the recommendations and hope to be in a position to make an initial response in the near future.
Following careful consideration of the recommendation that the bonus marks for answering through Irish in the leaving certificate be abolished, I have decided to retain the present system of awarding bonus marks. In taking this decision I took account of the wider issues of public policy towards the Irish language.