I can assure the Deputy that funding has been ring-fenced for the implementation of the new Junior Cycle. The combined costs of curriculum and CPD support in a full year will be of the order of €10 million. A Junior Cycle Support Service will be established under the directorship of Dr. Pádraig Kirk, currently CEO of Co. Louth VEC.
It is important to note that this is not a cost-saving exercise. In fact significant resources are needed to implement the new junior cycle. But even in these very difficult financial times, this Government believes in investing in our children and all the necessary resources will be provided to make this a success.
The Department has established an Education Partners Consultation Group to provide the partners, including the ASTI and TUI, with a formal medium for assisting in the planning of the phased implementation of the Junior Cycle. These meetings are currently happening approximately every 4 to 6 weeks. At these meetings the partners have a forum in which to highlight both the opportunities and challenges of the reform.
In addition the ASTI and the TUI are represented on the Council of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and on its Subject Development Groups. At these meetings the future shape of the curriculum is considered and their findings are presented to the Minister. Between 2005 and 2009 total public and private spending increased in Ireland by 38% for all levels of education combined (below Higher Education). Expenditure on education in 2009 was 6.3% of GDP in 2009 which is in line with average OECD expenditure at 6.2% of GDP and above the EU-21 average of 5.9% of GDP. This figure reflects Ireland's maintenance of higher spending levels on education as the economy shrunk.
The latest edition of Education at a Glance published by the OECD in September 2012 showed that Ireland had the fifth highest proportion of persons aged 25 to 34 who completed upper secondary at 87%. We are fortunate that over 90% of our young people stay on to Senior Cycle and complete the Leaving Certificate.