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14 March, 2017 - New ambitious targets for Literacy and Numeracy set by Minister Bruton

Targeted improvements in Maths and reading for all schools – 50% of sixth class pupils to perform at the highest levels in reading and Maths by 2020

Increase by 42% the number of 6th class pupils in disadvantaged primary schools performing at the highest levels in Maths

Particular focus on numeracy and digital skills

The Minister for Education & Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton, TD, today published new, updated ambitious targets for numeracy and literacy in our schools, as part of the drive to achieve the best education service in Europe within a decade.

The Report published today shows that all of the targets set for reading and maths at primary level in the 2011 Literacy and Numeracy Strategy were reached and significant progress has been made towards achievement of the targets at post-primary. These results are confirmed by recent strong results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) (see below).

While recent trends are encouraging, it is clear that there is still room for improvement, in particular in Maths, and the updated targets set a particular focus on numeracy. For this reason, the new targets set by Minister Bruton are particularly ambitious in the numeracy area. The Action Plan for Education, which has the overall aim of making Ireland the best education and training service in Europe within a decade, outlines a series of ambitious actions to further improve our performance in maths, including: introducing coding and computer science throughout the school curriculum; a comprehensive National Policy Statement on STEM Education in schools; and ambitious new measures to upskill maths teachers.

Minister Bruton has set out that tackling educational disadvantage will be a key priority during his Ministry. For this reason, Minister Bruton has for the first time set specific targets for literacy and numeracy within disadvantaged schools as part of this strategy. Such targets were not included in the original strategy published in 2011. For example, we have set a target to increase the number of pupils in DEIS Band 1 urban primary schools performing at the highest levels in Maths at sixth class by 2020, by 42%. This is underpinned by the publication of the DEIS Plan 2017 by the Minister, which will see €15m extra being invested to tackle educational disadvantage each year.

There will also be an increased emphasis on higher-achieving students and on embedding achievements in literacy, in particular literacy for and through the Irish language, and also on enhancing the digital literacy skills of our learners.

Priority actions included in the plan include:

  • Prioritising the development of maths curricula at primary and post-primary, including the redevelopment of the primary maths curriculum, encompassing the introduction of computational and creative thinking skills and coding.
  • The Professional Development Service for Teachers refining its literacy and numeracy supports for teachers.
  • Reviewing the time allocation for maths at primary to ensure that the allocation reflects learners’ requirements.
  • Implementation of new curricula in Irish at both primary and post-primary, which aim to improve Irish as Language 1 in Irish medium schools and Irish as Language 2 in English medium schools.
  • Supporting ECCE practitioners and teachers in Early Start centres with comprehensive implementation of the Aistear curriculum framework, in particular development of early literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Support for the transitions between educational settings, e.g. the move from early years settings to primary schools, by developing reporting templates-for use by ECCE practitioners, schools and parents-based on research and trialling.
  • Carrying out research on creative and innovative ways to support parents in their role as educators.

Minister Bruton said:

“Being able to read, write and do so effectively are key skills which every young person leaving school should have if they are to achieve their full potential.”

“While we are performing very well in reading, there is room for improvement in maths. The Action Plan for Education, which has the overall aim of making Ireland the best education service in Europe within a decade, outlines a series of ambitious actions to further improve our performance so as to significantly reduce the gap with the top European performers in maths and science in particular. We will be developing a new maths curriculum at primary, including computational thinking, creative thinking skills and coding, and reviewing the structure and time allocation of the primary maths curriculum, as a whole. We will adopt a STEM Education Policy Statement, and ambitious new measures to upskill maths teachers. The Digital Strategy for Schools and the investment of €210m over its lifetime will also be a major factor in implementing change.”

“Every child has to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their circumstances. Education has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage. Our recently published DEIS Plan aims to increase the outcomes for students in more disadvantaged schools. I want, for example, to see an increase of 42% in the number of pupils in disadvantaged urban primary schools performing at the highest levels in maths at sixth class by 2020.”

“The Report shows the significant progress that has been made since 2011. Everyone should be very proud of what has been achieved to date.  A huge part of this success is due to the commitment of ECCE practitioners, teachers and school leaders, parents and school managers, staff in support services of various types, teacher educators, a range of other bodies, agencies and organisations, and especially the young people who have worked so hard to enhance their literacy and numeracy skills.”

“I believe the new and updated targets set, and the actions identified within this Report will enable us to focus on achieving the best results for our learners – and ultimately ensuring that every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential in life.”

Ends

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Review, with new and updated targets, is available at:

 

PISA and TIMSS results

  • In reading, Irish 15 year olds ranked 2nd among EU countries, 3rd out of 35 OECD countries, and 5th out of all countries participating in PISA 2015
  • In Maths, Irish 15 year olds ranked 9th among EU countries, 13th of 35 OECD countries, and 18th out of all countries participating in PISA 2015
  • Irish fourth class pupils ranked 9th out of 49 countries in Maths (up from 17th out of 50 countries in 2011), in TIMSS 2015.
  • Irish second year students ranked 9th out of 39 countries in Maths, (there is no recent study with which to compare this), in TIMSS 2015.

Interim Review of the National Strategy: Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life 2011-2020

In July 2011, the Department of Education and Skills launched the National Strategy: Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life 2011-2020 (the Strategy). The Strategy sets a clear vision, with targets, for raising standards in literacy and numeracy in early years, primary and post-primary settings by 2020.

The Interim Review involved consideration of research findings, both national and international, and a consultation process with a wide range of stakeholders. It concluded in late 2016, following the publication of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 and Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 reports.  

The Report of the Interim Review does not replace the (2011-2020) Strategy. The Strategy is, and will continue to be, the focal point within our education system, for improving literacy and numeracy outcomes to 2020. The Report does identify the priority areas of numeracy, literacy, DEIS and specific actions, as well as new targets, which will complement those in the Strategy and help us to achieve our ambition to have the best education and training system in Europe.

Feedback in relation to the implementation of the Strategy to date suggests that there may have been a greater focus on literacy than numeracy. A stronger focus on numeracy is now warranted, in order to bring about the ‘step-change’ that will help us to achieve our ambition to be among the top performers in Europe.

In addition to focusing on numeracy, attention up to 2020 also needs to be focused on:

  • Tackling educational disadvantage - with targets that will link the literacy and numeracy agenda with the DEIS Plan 2017.
  • Enabling higher-achieving students to reach their full potential, in light of the strong messages from a number of national and international assessments which indicate that the attainment of higher-achieving Irish learners lags behind their international counterparts.
  • Embedding achievements in literacy - additional emphasis needs to be placed on gaining improvements in literacy for and through the Irish language and on also enhancing the digital literacy skills of our learners.

In light of the findings in the Interim Review, the next steps from 2017-2020, are:

  • To implement revised targets that are ambitious
  • To keep the focus squarely on our key priority areas - numeracy, improvements for pupils in DEIS schools, higher-achieving students, literacy in Irish and enhancing digital literacy skills
  • To focus on the key priority areas through identified actions in the Report.

The findings from further national and international studies, up to PISA 2021, will act as indicators of the progress over the remaining lifetime of the Strategy.

Revised and new Targets

The findings from studies such as the National Assessments of English Reading and Maths (NAERM) 2014 and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 highlight progress made in reading and Maths. Many of the targets for reading and Maths achievement, set in the Strategy in 2011, have been met in little over half of the Strategy’s lifetime.

In order to maintain focus to 2020, targets have been revisited, in particular where achievements are already at or near the benchmark set in 2011. The interim review also identified a gap in achievement between schools with the highest concentration of disadvantage (DEIS urban Band 1 at primary) and other schools. In order to keep focus on this cohort, a set of discrete targets have been identified in literacy and numeracy for DEIS schools, linked to the DEIS Plan 2017. Finally, an additional target focused on the key priority group of higher-achieving students has been included.

1.   Build on improvements in reading and Mathematics for all primary schools.

National Assessments of English reading and Maths – All Primary Schools  
   Target for 2020 set in the 2011 Strategy   Current Position  (NAERM 2014)

New Target

to 2020

Reading: At or above Level 3 Second class 40% 46% 50%
Sixth class 40% 44% 50%
Reading: At or below Level 1 Second class 30% 22% 20%
Sixth class 30% 25% 20%
Maths: At or above Level 3 Second class 40% 47% 53%
Sixth class 40% 42% 50%
Maths: At or below Level 1 Second class 30% 26% 20%
Sixth class 30% 27% 20%

2.   Focus on reducing the gap between achievement in reading and Maths of pupils in DEIS Band 1 schools and pupils in all primary schools

National Assessments of English reading and Maths – DEIS Band 1 Primary Schools
   Target for 2020 set in the 2011 Strategy   Current Position  (NAERM 2014) New Target to 2020
Reading: At or above Level 3 Second class No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy 18% 25%
Sixth class 21% 27%
Reading: At or below Level 1 Second class 44% 40%
Sixth class 47% 40%
Maths: At or above Level 3 Second class No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy 21% 30%
Sixth class 19% 27%
Maths: At or below Level 1 Second class 52% 45%
Sixth class 50% 42%

3.   Build on improvements in reading and Maths for all post-primary schools. There will also be a specific focus on the needs of the highest achieving students.

Programme for International Student Assessment – All Post-Primary Schools
   Target for 2020 set in the 2011 Strategy      Current Position (PISA 2015) New Target to 2020
Reading Literacy: At or above Level 4 15 year olds 34% 37% 40%
Reading Literacy:  At or above Level 5 (highest achievers) 15 year olds No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy 11% 12%
Reading Literacy: At or below Level 1 15 year olds 8.5% 10% 8.5%
Maths: At or above Level 4 15 year olds 31% 31% 36%

Maths:  At or above Level 5

(highest achievers)

15 year olds No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy 10% 13%
Maths: At or below Level 1 15 year olds 10.5% 15% 10.5%

4.   Focus on reducing the gap between achievement in reading and Maths of students in DEIS post-primary schools and students in all post-primary schools.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – DEIS Post-Primary
   Target for 2020 set in the 2011 Strategy   Current Position (PISA 2015) New Target to 2020
Reading Literacy: At or above Level 4 15 year olds No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy 28% 33%

Reading Literacy:  At or above Level 5

(highest achievers)

15 year olds 7% 10%
Reading Literacy: At or below Level 1 15 year olds 16% 12%
Maths: At or above Level 4 15 year olds No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy 23% 29%

Maths:  At or above Level 5

(highest achievers)

15 year olds 6% 10%
Maths: At or below Level 1 15 year olds 22% 16%

5.   Consolidate and further increase the number of students taking Higher Level Maths in the Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate examinations to reach the targets set in 2011, in a measured way, by 2020.

Take up of Higher Level Maths at Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate
  Position in 2011 Current Position (2016) Target 2020
Junior Cycle Maths: Higher Level Candidates 45% 55% 60%
Leaving Certificate Maths:  Higher Level Candidates 17% 28% 30%