I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 86 together.
I received the Discussion Document for the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) on "Maths and National Competitiveness". It is a helpful input into the debate on the role of numeracy and in particular mathematics in primary and post-primary education. I welcome the introduction to the Discussion Document which was prepared by the NCC itself. It highlights the many initiatives currently underway to improve the quality of teaching and learning so as to ensure that the outcomes for our students in this curricular area continue to improve over the next number of years.
These initiatives include my publication of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy last year, the introduction of Project Maths, the prioritisation of Continuing Professional Development for our Maths teachers, the funding by my Department of a post-graduate Diploma in Maths to upskill out-of-field Maths teachers, the request to schools for greater amount of time for teaching maths both at primary and post primary levels. In addition, I welcome provision of 25 bonus points from Higher Education institutions for Leaving Certificate students who achieve a grade D3 or higher in higher level maths. That measure alone has seen a 25% increase in the number of students who indicated that they were going to sit the Higher Level Maths paper last month. Initial teacher education has increased from 3 to 4 years from this September at primary level and from one to two years at second level. The Teaching Council will be consulting on the minimum entry requirements for Teacher Education.
The Discussion Document is one of many which I have received on mathematics in our primary and post-primary curriculum. It highlights the concerns of this Government and me that I have expressed on many occasions. I will continue to prioritise literacy and numeracy in the primary and post-primary sectors. I would agree with the NCC when it highlights, in the introduction to the document, that "mathematical skills are essential for enabling people to fully participate and work in a modern society".