Educate Together welcomes Minister Bruton’s Action Plan for Education, published this morning. The strategic initiative is notable for its emphasis on engaging with education partners in monitoring the key performance indicators to be implemented across 2016-2019. Educate Together commends this fresh approach to achieving Government commitments on education.
A plan for expanding educational equality
Educate Together welcomes the Action Plan’s commitment to ‘new approaches’ in bringing the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools to 400 by 2030. Educate Together is also looking forward to working with the Department on developing its policy on amalgamation and reconfiguration with a view to increasing diversity of school type. Commenting on this, Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe, stated:
“As the patron that has opened more new schools than any other body in the past 10 years in Ireland, and the preferred model of thousands of parents across Ireland, we look forward to working with the Department to achieve its Action Plan targets. Educate Together has a track record of achieving change and innovation, and we are keen to start working with the Minister and his officials to accelerate the current process in the context of this Action Plan.”
The issue of tackling disadvantage in the Action Plan is particularly timely. Educate Together welcomes specific targets towards student retention in DEIS schools (an increase of 9%) and a 30% increase in number of students from disadvantaged areas entering further education within the next decade. Currently, 20% of Educate Together primary schools operate within the DEIS scheme – 29% would qualify had the scheme not been discontinued in 2010.
Educate Together also hopes that the focus on Wellbeing programmes outlined in the Action Plan will address the needs of students who are not provided for under the current DEIS scheme. This should include special provisions for schools with exceptionally high numbers of migrant families, children and young people with special educational needs, and children and young people for whom English is not their first language.
Educate Together would also take this opportunity to highlight the need for additional education strategies, intervention and curricula which actively tackle racism, sexism, social, cultural, religious and other discriminations and inequalities.
Educate Together welcomes the fact that a growing number of its schools are in a position to provide education for children with Autism / ASD in specialist classes within its schools, and that most new school buildings have provision for such classes. However, the supports available to children in these classes, and to schools with such classes are currently insufficient and badly coordinated. A full evaluation of current provision for children with Autism / ASD should be conducted, to include special classes for children with Autism/ASD in mainstream schools as well as other models.
In sum, it is encouraging to see such a comprehensive Action Plan, and Educate Together looks forward to working with the Minister and his officials in implementing it and to seeing secure budget lines to support it in the upcoming budget.