21 September, 2018 - Minister Bruton announces launch of School Excellence Fund – Step Up Project

Nine schools from across the country today chosen to participate in school improvement programme


The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., today (Friday September 21st) announced the launch of the School Excellence Fund – Step Up Project.

Nine schools from across the country are participating in the initial pilot phase taking place over the coming school year.

The Step Up Project focuses on supporting schools to ‘step up’ in the delivery of the new junior cycle programme. Schools will work together and will be supported by the Inspectorate, who will help with planning and the JCT, who will provide additional teacher training. 

The School Excellence Fund approach, which focuses on encouraging local collaboration and innovation, is key to delivering on the governments overall ambition to making Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

Teachers from each school will participate in an opening seminar in Athlone today where they will collaborate to develop their thinking around the Step Up Project and work with members of JCT and the Inspectorate to refine their Step Up Project plan for the year ahead. 

Making the announcement, Minister Bruton said, “The opportunity provided by the Step Up Project will empower participating schools to move to highly effective practice in their implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle. In this way, they will impact positively on student learning and their experience will be used to support other schools as they engage in Junior Cycle reform. I welcome the collaboration of the Inspectorate and Junior Cycle for Teachers in facilitating appropriate and effective professional learning for the schools in this initial stage of the project”.


Notes for Editors

The overarching aim of the Step Up Project is to support schools already at an effective level of implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle (2015) to move to a highly effective level. While it is relatively early in the overall phased introduction of new subject specifications, schools at this point in time have considerable experience in implementing the Framework for Junior Cycle in the areas of English, Business Studies and Science. It is timely that an opportunity be provided for schools to reflect on teaching, learning, assessment and reporting in these three subject areas and to identify how the quality of provision and implementation, both for those specific subjects and for the overall Framework for Junior Cycle, can be raised to the highest level.

Schools participating in the project will be required to take a school self-evaluation approach in reviewing their current implementation of the Framework in one or more of three subject areas: English, Business Studies and Science. Schools will be encouraged to identify areas for improvement and will be supported in developing and implementing actions leading to improvement in their chosen areas. Learning from the project will be disseminated to all schools.


Step Up Project: Phase One Schools

·         Borrisokane Community College, Co. Tipperary

·         Castletroy College, Co. Limerick

·         Castleknock Community College, Dublin 15

·         Coláiste Muire, Ennis, Co. Clare

·         St Bricin’s College, Belturbet, Co. Cavan

·         St. Columba’s College, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal

·         St. Colmcille’s Community School, Knocklyon, Dublin 16

·         St. Louis Secondary School, Dundalk, Co. Louth

·         Stratford College, Rathgar, Dublin 6



School Excellence Fund

The Department’s Action Plan for Education sets out the ambition to have the best education and training system in Europe within the next decade. The School Excellence Fund (SEF) is an innovation of the Department of Education and Skills which enables schools to participate in innovative programmes which are context-specific and aimed at improving learning outcomes for young people. Projects associated with the School Excellence Fund already established include;



SEF-DEIS is designed to ensure that innovative approaches and proposals to tackle educational disadvantage are supported and rewarded. The overarching aim of the initiative is to improve learning outcomes for young people. In order to achieve improved outcomes, schools in the SEF-DEIS will be challenged to promote innovation by adopting new evidence-based approaches to tackling under-performance in literacy and in the STEM subjects or in the Arts subjects.

SEF – Digital

 The Digital Strategy for Schools outlines a vision for the embedding of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment in primary and post primary schools. The Strategy outlines a programme of work across a number of themes:

·         Teaching, Learning and Assessment using Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

·         Teachers’ Professional learning

·         Leadership, research and policy

·         ICT Infrastructure


 SEF – Creative

Creative Clusters is a pilot initiative of the Department of Education and Skills, led by and in partnership with the 21 full-time Teacher Education Centres (ATECI). Creative Clusters provide schools with access to creative people, skills and resources alongside supporting them to draw on their own skills and experiences and those within their wider communities. Creative Clusters is an important initiative of Creative Youth – A Plan to Enable the Creative Potential of Every Child and Young Person, which was published in December 2017 as part of the Creative Ireland Programme.


Junior Cycle For Teachers

Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) is a dedicated continuing professional development (CPD) support service of the Department of Education and Skills established to support schools in their implementation of the new Framework for Junior Cycle (2015) through the provision of appropriate high quality CPD for school leaders and teachers, and the provision of effective teaching and learning resources.