Thursday, 9 July 2009

Ceisteanna (1176, 1177, 1178, 1179, 1180)

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

1178 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to complete the senior cycle review that is currently being undertaken by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29436/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The NCCA proposals for reform envisaged re-structuring of senior cycle programmes into subjects, short courses and Transition Units, a strengthening of practical project and portfolio assessment, a spread of assessment events with subjects having two assessment components, and embedding of key skills into subjects.

In response, the then Minister Mary Hanafin. T.D. welcomed the embedding of core skills, the inclusion of a second assessment component, and the moves to standardise transition units. She asked that change be implemented on a phased basis over a significant period of time, minimising disruption, taking account of logistical and cost factors and system capacity to change. The Minister asked the NCCA to prioritise the reconfiguration of subjects generally within the Leaving Certificate in order to embed key skills, and to provide for a second assessment component. She indicated her concern the TYP should remain as a single year programme for equity reasons. On short courses, she asked the NCCA to develop as an exemplar a short course in Enterprise education, building on the existing Links Modules, so that the Department could better assess the implementation issues.

The NCCA has established a network to undertake development work with schools. A standardised framework for Transition Unit descriptors has been developed, and organisations are using these as new programme options for TYP are being developed. Reforms are under way in Irish to strengthen oral competence and to increase the proportion of marks for the oral examinations to 40% for all new entrants to second level from 2007/8.

The NCCA has submitted short courses in Enterprise and Psychology and a curriculum framework for Social Personal and Health Education at senior cycle to the Department for consideration, but I am not in a position to advance implementation of these at present. The Council is also engaging in consultation with schools on a new subject, Politics and Society in senior cycle, and on revised draft syllabuses in Leaving Certificate Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

A revised syllabus in Design and Communications Graphics and a new subject Technology were introduced in 2007 and examined for the first time in the Leaving Certificate 2009.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

1179 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to review the format and content of transition year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29437/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The proposals of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment for reform of senior cycle envisaged a re-structuring of programmes into subjects, short courses and transition units. The Council proposed the development of Transition Units as 45 hour units of study which would provide a broad range of experiences for learners, incorporating innovative methodologies and supporting the development of key skills. The Council proposed that school based assessment would be inbuilt into each transition unit, and models for the validation of schools to develop their own Transition Units would be explored.

The units would cover such areas of learning as creative applications, skills, personal achievement, sampling of subjects, enterprise, civic and social education, and work and future.

In response, the then Minister Mary Hanafin TD welcomed the measures to standardise transition units, and indicated her concern that the Transition Year Programme should remain as a single year programme for equity reasons.

The NCCA has established a network to undertake development work with schools. A standardised framework for Transition Unit descriptors has been developed, and organisations are using these as new programme options for TYP are being developed. The descriptors are designed to promote better planning and communication and provide for greater clarity and coherence in the implementation of the programme. They require schools to set out the aims of the unit, its learning outcomes, how key skills are being integrated, what methodologies and assessment approaches will be taken and how it will be evaluated.

New Transition Units have been developed and posted to the NCCA website in a range of areas and a guide has been produced to help schools to develop their own units in keeping with the descriptor format. Schools may forward their Transition Units to the NCCA for further feedback and support. Guidelines have also been developed for agencies and non governmental organisations wishing to develop a Transition Unit, and a range of Transition Units are currently being developed by these bodies.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

1180 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ring-fence funding for science laboratories, improve science equipment in schools, and ensure a greater focus on high quality science education at all levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29438/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

As part of the multi-annual school building programme, the Government has invested heavily in the modernisation of school facilities throughout the country including science facilities in post-primary schools. Provision of science facilities is an intrinsic part of all major projects at post-primary level.

Schools have also received devolved capital grants under the Summer Works and Emergency Works Schemes to enable them to refurbish science laboratories.

Additionally, the Government has funded the provision of class materials, basic general equipment and chemicals for practical work for the Sciences. My Department also spent in excess of €13m in 2004 to facilitate the introduction of a revised Junior Science syllabus. Schools received a basic grant of €3500 per science laboratory to enable them to provide the new curriculum.

Expenditure on science laboratories and science equipment in schools will arise for consideration in the context of the funding available for my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

1181 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase resources and services for gifted children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29439/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Schools at both primary and second level use strategies such as curriculum differentiation, curriculum enrichment and acceleration to facilitate the development of pupils who are exceptionally able.

Recently devised syllabi and curricula for second-level schools have been designed in such a way to enable teachers cater for the wide range of pupil ability. The revised primary curriculum, which has been supplied to every primary teacher, recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the child and caters for pupil diversity, including meeting the needs of exceptionally able pupils.

Content is outlined in the curricula at both levels and process is also heavily emphasised. Enabling children to learn how to learn is stressed and facilitated. The development of language skills, investigatory and problem-solving skills, higher-order thinking skills and working individually, and as a member of a group, are all encouraged at both levels. While the use of information and communication technologies and the use of class and school libraries are of benefit in project work with all pupils, they have a special importance for pupils who are exceptionally able.

In addition, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), in collaboration with its counterparts in Northern Ireland, the Council for Curriculum Examination and Assessment, has produced draft guidelines for teachers of exceptionally able students. These guidelines issued to all Primary and Post Primary schools in November 2007 along with a questionnaire for feedback. Over the last few months the NCCA has sought feedback on the draft guidelines from teachers, school management and other interested individuals and organisations.

These draft guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. They feature ways in which teaching and learning can be effectively differentiated for such students, in particular how learning skills can be embedded in increasingly complex content. Case studies included in the guidelines present rich real-life contexts which consider the issues around exceptionality through the eyes of teachers, parents and students.

The Special Education Support Service also provides support for school personnel working with talented/gifted students.

The 1998 Education Act requires Boards of Management of each school to publish the policy of the school relating to participation by students with special educational needs, including students who are exceptionally able. The measures schools take in this regard are required to be stated in the school plan. It is the duty of the Board of Management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

1182 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to encourage more schools to offer alternative curricula such as the junior certificate schools programme and the leaving certificate applied course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29440/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

There are currently 221 schools/centres offering the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) is currently offered in some 380 schools/centres and taken by around 6% of students each year.

The DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Action Plan for Educational Inclusion provides for extended access to the JCSP for second-level schools with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. An additional 30 schools joined the programme in 2007, and a further 24 schools joined in 2008.

Arrangements are being made for the final phase of rollout of JCSP to DEIS schools in 2009/10. Participation in the programme is supported by an enhanced pupil:teacher ratio and by the provision of professional development support to schools and teachers.

Participation in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme is also supported by an enhanced pupil:teacher ratio and by the provision of professional development support to schools and teachers. Given the budgetary situation my Department is not in a position to approve further expansion of the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme at present, except where schools can deliver it from within existing resources. Schools already offering the programme are not affected by this.

In the October Budget, a number of separate grant payments to second-level schools were abolished including the those for the Junior Certificate School Programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied.

However, I made provision for the rates of capitation grant for post-primary schools to be increased by 4.3%, representing an increase of €14 per student, to bring it to €345 per student from January 2009. In addition, voluntary secondary schools will benefit from an increase of €8 per student in the school services support grant from January 2009. This will mean, for example, that a secondary school with an enrolment of 500 students will receive an additional €11,000 in funding in 2009.