Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals, including at the recent IPPN conference, and I appreciate the pressures they face. In Budget 2019, school leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019.
This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This funding provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.
Enabling teaching principals to have one release day per week would cost an estimated €7.5m per annum. Any additional increase in the number of release days will be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process.
The Primary Education Forum was established in September 2018 and aims to support the planning and sequencing of change in the primary school sector and to exchange information on the intent and impacts of the actions in the Action Plan for Education in order to look for synergies and opportunities to streamline implementation and address workload issues.
Membership represents key personnel from the Department, school management, and representatives of school leadership and representatives of teachers, with the Forum akin to a working group in scale.
Through adopting this approach, my Department and partners have already agreed to make several changes to the pace and sequence of planned reforms. These include the decision to re-schedule the implementation of the Primary Mathematics Curriculum to give teachers the time to expand on their understanding and engage more fully with the new curriculum and to allow for further supports to be developed for teachers. Also, I took the decision to pace the commencement of the Education (Admission to schools) Act 2018 by initially focusing on regulations relating to the essential key features of the Act and there was agreement to consult with the sector on the regulations to be put in place alongside the commencement of the remaining sections of the Act.