I appreciate the question and the sincerity with which it is put. The Deputy may be aware that, between 2016 and 2020, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, undertook an extensive review of senior cycle programmes and vocational pathways. The NCCA’s advisory report on the senior cycle has been submitted to my Department for consideration and will be published once that consideration is complete. I am aware of the desire in the education community and more generally for that to happen, but we must complete our consideration of the report. I am focusing on what the implementation of the report would involve and what we can do to best ensure the further evolution of the senior cycle.
As the consideration of the advisory report has continued, my officials have had contact with officials in the NCCA and the State Examinations Commission, SEC, to ensure there is a clarity of understanding on some matters identified in the report. I have had a considerable number of briefing sessions and meetings with relevant officials in my Department as our consideration of the NCCA advisory report has continued.
In addition, I recently attended an NCCA meeting to thank the council and acknowledge its work in developing the advisory report. I also opened the recent Joint Managerial Body conference, the theme of which was A Senior Cycle for All.
In respect of the advisory report, the review considered a number of areas, including the question of the overall purpose of senior cycle education, as the Deputy referenced, how to establish continuity and progression, and the pathways available to students. The review involved a broad range of research, consultations, and communications with a broad range of stakeholders, including very importantly, students themselves, on all aspects of review and redevelopment. The NCCA also commissioned external expertise, which is also important, to support the process, including the ESRI and the OECD.