Computer science to be fast-tracked onto Leaving Cert

Coding to be on new primary maths curriculum amid concern over skills gaps

Coding is to be emphasised through a new maths curriculum at primary level. The new action plan outlines hundreds of actions to be implemented this year

Coding is to be emphasised through a new maths curriculum at primary level. The new action plan outlines hundreds of actions to be implemented this year

 

Computer science is to be fast-tracked as a new Leaving Cert subject from September next year.

It is one of a number of measures contained in a 2017 action plan for education due to be published by the Government today.

The move to make computer science an exam subject comes amid rising demand from industry for graduates in the areas and rising concern over skills gaps.

In addition, the development of coding is to be emphasised through a new maths curriculum at primary level.

The action plan – part of a wider three- year blueprint – outlines hundreds of actions to be implemented in 2017 by the Department of Education, its agencies and others across government.

The new plan seeks to encourage schools to make their buildings available for afterschool care in a move aimed at easing childcare pressure on two-income families.

The question of how to make the best use of idle school buildings has long been a matter of discussion in education circles.

Homework clubs

Under the plan, schools will receive guidelines on using their school facilities for a range of out-of-hours activities – such as homework clubs – for pupils both before and after school.

The plan also aims to significantly expand the number of schools in disadvantaged areas that benefit from additional support.

At present, 800 schools participate in the Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme.

Under a new educational inclusion plan, the first additional schools in almost a decade will join the scheme.

The plan is expected to make use of new “small areas” census data to identify schools in poorer areas that up to now have not benefitted from additional support.

It also includes a series of pilot projects aimed at introducing measures that have been shown to work well in improving results for disadvantaged students.

Mental health problems

The plans will also include a heavy emphasis on support for students experiencing mental health problems.

All schools will be required to have ring-fenced guidance counselling time for students “experiencing difficulties with their wellbeing”.

This will be expected to be provided from within schools’ existing resources, while the development of a new “wellbeing” programmes will be progressed as part if junior cycle reforms.

An additional 10 educational psychologists will be appointed to a national panel, while a new wellbeing steering committee will identify gaps in existing services.

Wellbeing

Hundreds of schools do not have access to State psychologist services at a time of rising concern over the wellbeing of students, latest figures show.

Almost 200 schools attended by about 35,000 students do not have assigned educational psychologists in areas such as Dublin, Meath and Mayo.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the plan is part of a bigger ambition to make the Irish education and training service the “best in Europe within a decade”.

“We are fortunate in Ireland to have so many dedicated and committed teachers,” he said. “Through the action plan for education, we will support teachers with more promotional opportunities, more reskilling opportunities, coaching, mentoring and a postgraduate qualification in school leadership.”

Meeting the skills needs of enterprise in critical areas also forms a key part of the blueprint.

“Successful engagement with enterprise will drive the growth of traineeships and apprenticeships, and ensure the relevance of work-based learning,” he said.