Radical points-system overhaul promised


The incoming government has opened the way for a potentially radical overhaul of the points system.

It has also said in its Programme for Government that it will ensure "every school building attains set modern standards".

In other commitments, it has promised new Donogh O'Malley scholarships for disadvantaged students and said it will back new initiatives to tackle alcohol abuse by young people.

The document says the new government will seek to address "the distortion of the points system".

It wants to replace the current system, which sets points at a very high level for medicine, veterinary degrees and related courses.Instead, it favours a common science degree as the principle route into these courses.

This was originally proposed in the Points Commission report which was released two years ago.

In practical terms, this means students who want to take medicine and other healthcare courses would first undertake a general science degree and then specialise in their area of choice.

It is hoped this would ease the pressure on points.

The section on education in the new Programme for Government is a very cautious document. There is no commitment to any changes in the examination system, despite pressure from educationalists for a radical revision of the Leaving and Junior Cert exams.

The education section also steers clear of the controversial issue of teachers' pay.

However, the section on employment says the new government will seek to "resolve potential issues, difficulties and conflicts in the spirit of social partnership".

It makes few new commitments on science, despite the fall-off in interest in the subject among students.

Other proposals include :

A commitment to considerably reduce truancy and early school-leaving.

New guidelines which will ensure a maximum class size of 20 pupils for all students under nine years of age.

A "second-chance" guarantee for all which will ensure that early school leavers will be offered the chance to take part in adult education.

An increase in the eligibility threshold for student grants for families with more than one student at college.

The school building programme will, according to the programme, be financed by the National Development Finance Agency.

Maximum use will be made of public/private partnerships in school projects.

The Department of Education will complete a national assessment and inventory of school buildings.

The method of delivering school building projects will also be changed so that more activity is devolved to local level, according to the programme.

The programme also promises a new road safety schools programme.

It says this might be done in partnership with the insurance industry.