06 February, 2017 - Government Launches Action Plan for Education 2017

Hundreds of Actions to be delivered with a focus on Skills, Technology, Wellbeing and tackling disadvantage

Over 400 actions and sub actions in Plan led by Minister Bruton

The Government today (Monday 06 February) published the Action Plan for Education 2017, led by Minister Richard Bruton, aimed at making Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe within a decade.

Education is central to all our ambitions as a nation. It supports the development of a strong growing economy while sustaining a fair and compassionate society.

The Action Plan for Education outlines hundreds of actions and sub-actions to be implemented in 2017 by the Department, its agencies and others across government. Timelines and lead responsibility have been assigned.

When the Minister launched the three year Action Plan for Education in September, he set out that it would be an annual process which underpins the goals of the plan with concrete actions to be delivered each year according to strict timelines. The 2017 Plan contains over 400 actions and sub actions.  

Among the headline actions announced as part of today’s 2017 plan are:

  • Wellbeing: Every school will be required to have dedicated guidance counselling time available for students; implement Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme; appoint an additional 10 NEPs psychologists and establish a wellbeing steering committee to develop policy statement and identify gaps in existing services.
  • Technology in education: Implementation of computer science leaving cert subject brought forward 12 months to September 2018; development of computational thinking andcodingthrough new maths curriculum at primary; new advisory group led by industry and experts to develop new plans for greater use of technology in education
  • Disadvantage: Shortly publish our Plan for future supports to tackle educational disadvantage, building on existing DEIS supports, with new schools being phased into DEIS from next September; develop a School Excellence Fund and commence pilot, initially in DEIS schools
  • Skills: Develop 13 new apprenticeships and 2 new traineeships in 2017; review work experience at post primary; develop innovative responses to address skills shortages in ICT languages and biopharma; hold quarterly meetings between education and enterprise 
  • Research: New initiatives to attract world-leading researchers to Ireland, particularly in the context of Brexit
  • Costs: Publish a strong circular with an emphasis on reducing costs to parents, including school uniform costs
  • After school care provision: Publish guidelines for the use of school buildings out of hours, following engagement with property owners and school authorities (e.g. to provide afterschool care provision for school age children to offer more options and flexibility to parents)
  • Languages: New foreign languages strategy to outline new languages options and ambitious targets; consideration to be given to greater use of “CLIL”, or teaching of mainstream subjects through second and third languages, as means of teaching Irish and other languages in a more effective way at primary and secondary
  • Gaeltacht: Implement the Gaeltacht Education Strategy, and publish arrangements for Gaeltacht school recognition process
  • Infrastructure: Complete 46 large-scale building projects; provide 6,000 additional permanent post primary places in 2017
  • Special Educational Needs: Introduce the new model for allocation of teachers in mainstream schools to support children with SEN; establish a new Inclusion Support Service;  complete a comprehensive assessment of the Special Needs Assistants (SNA) scheme
  • Third level: New higher education funding model (RGAM) to be in place for 2018 budget; publish policy review to design and implement a multi-annual funding model involving increased Exchequer and employer contributions from 2018; finalise drafting of Higher Education Reform Bill

An Taoiseach Said:

“The Government has high aspirations for our citizens and recognises the important role that education plays in providing opportunities for everyone to reach their potential.”

“Education is a powerful instrument of social cohesion. It instils in each generation the deep-rooted values of the Irish people and impacts on social inclusion. It allows people to be independent, fulfilled, and to achieve their own dreams, whatever they might be.”

“Building on the Action Plan for Education 2016- 2019, the 2017 Plan shows great vision in working towards our overall ambition to have the best education and training service in Europe by 2026.”

Minister Bruton said:

“Education is central to all our ambitions as a nation. It is central to our economic, scientific, cultural and social ambitions. Education supports the development of a strong growing economy while sustaining a fair and compassionate society.”

“In this plan, we set out the actions that we will take in 2017 as we work towards making the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade. The cumulative impact of the implementation of the hundreds of actions and sub actions in the Action Plan will have a lasting and positive impact on the Irish education and training sector.”

“We are fortunate in Ireland to have so many dedicated and committed teachers. Through the Action Plan for Education we will support teachers with more promotional opportunities, more re-skilling opportunities. Coaching, mentoring and a post graduate qualification in School Leadership will all be introduced.  

“To sustain our growing economy, we have to identify and meet the skills needs of enterprise in critical areas. Successful engagement with enterprise will drive the growth of traineeships and apprenticeships, and ensure the relevance of work based learning

“Budget 2017 secured an extra €458 million (5.1%) in  funding for education to bring the total gross 2107 budget to 9.53 billion euro (its third highest level in history) and marking the start of a major programme of reinvestment in education, an important step on the road to becoming the best education system in Europe.”

Consultation with stakeholders was an important part of the development of Action Plan for Education 2017. Consultation activity included an on line call for submissions, input from other Departments, regional fora, thematic workshops and other meetings with key stakeholders. 

Minister Halligan said:

‘I’m delighted to see the research-specific actions in the Plan. Brexit presents us with a unique opportunity in that regard and we will seek to position Ireland to benefit from this.

The importance of entrepreneurship and innovation are also recognised and I’m confident that during 2017, we will make significant advances in that regard.’


The Action Plan for Education 2017 is available here:

What Being the Best in Europe Means:

  •  Delivering a learning experience to highest international standards
  • Harnessing education to break down barriers for groups at risk of exclusion and setting the benchmark for social inclusion
  • Equipping learners of all ages and capacities to participate and succeed in a changing world
  • Leading in innovation and a broad range of endeavours, scientific, cultural, enterprise and public service
  • Fostering strong relationships between enterprise and education and building strong bridges with the wider community

Action Plan for Education 2017

The delivery of an Annual Action Plan for Education was a commitment in the three-year Action Plan for Education 2016- 2019.

It is based on five high-level goals, with an overall ambition to make Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe by 2026:

  • Improve the learning experience and the success of learners
  • Improve the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage or learners with special educational needs
  • Help those delivering education services to continually improve
  • Build stronger bridges between education and the wider community
  • Improve national planning and support services.

We have prioritised actions under five high-level goals. These areas include:

Goal 1: Improve the learning experience and the success of learners

  • Responding to the STEM challenge
  • Important curricular reforms, including at Junior Cycle level and new numeracy and literacy initiatives
  • A new focus on promoting and supporting well-being
  • Using digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning and assessment

Goal 2: Improve the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage or learners with special educational needs

  • The new Action Plan for Educational Inclusion and Schools Excellence Fund for DEIS schools
  • A new SEN resource teacher allocation model and inclusion support service
  • Assessment of the Special Needs Assistants (SNA) Scheme
  • New systems performance measures in Higher Education, linked to targets for inclusivity

Goal 3: Help those delivering education services to continually improve

  • National programme of  early years education focussed inspections
  • Strengthen leadership with significant new supports for current and future leaders
  • Initiate a review of quality in Higher Education and develop a new systems performance framework for the period to 2021

Goal 4: Build stronger bridges between education and the wider community

  • Better accommodating the role and needs of parents within the education system
  • Enhancing skills, innovation and entrepreneurship, addressing identified skills needs
  • Further development of Apprenticeships and Traineeships and programmes for people in employment
  • Growing a vibrant research community
  • Position Ireland to attract more international students

Goal 5: Improve national planning and support services

  • Strengthen governance processes with agencies
  • Developing sustainable multi annual funding model for further education and training and for higher education.
  • Increase infrastructure capacity to meet demographic and other demands
  • Introduce new ways of working, including shared services

In total, the 2017 Plan details over 400 actions and sub-actions. Each action has a specific quarter for delivery. Implementation will be monitored with quarterly progress reports and an annual report.

Actions due for delivery by end 2016

The Action Plan for 2016 – 2019 contained 141 actions and sub-actions due for delivery by the end of 2016. Of these, 116 actions and sub-actions have been achieved, giving a completion rate of 82%.

Action delivered under the Plan so far include:

  • Published the draft of a Bill to introduce a Parent and Student Charter into every school – ensuring better consultation between schools, parents and students
  • A major increase in the number of inspections in Early Years settings
  • Publication of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016
  • Commencement of the Fitness to Teach provisions of the Teaching Council Act
  • Launch of the new Junior Cycle Business Studies and Science subject specifications
  • Publication of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022
  • Allocation of funding for an additional 430 Resource Teachers
  • Funding and launch of Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH)
  • Launch of the International Education Strategy
  • Published the STEM report, and accepted 21 actions to be implemented as a priority, to make Ireland a world leader in STEM education

An end of year Review for 2016 was also published today. That report is available here:

The Action Plan Model:

The plan builds on the successful model of the Action Plan for Jobs, pioneered by Minister Bruton as Minister for Jobs. In early 2012, when the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched, the Minister set out a target to create 100,000 jobs by the end of 2016. That target was reached ahead of time with 190,000 jobs created, with the final quarter of 2016 still to be reported.