30 November, 2020 – Minister Foley announces appointment of new Chief Executive Officer to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today announced the appointment of Ms. Arlene Forster as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for a five-year term. 


The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is a statutory body established under Part VII of the Education Act 1998. Its role is to advise the Minister for Education on curriculum and assessment for early childhood education and in primary and post-primary schools. In doing so, it is required to consult with the partners in education, to engage in research, take account of international practice, and develop and review curricula, having regard to the promotion of high standards of quality, equity and inclusion, sound educational practice and relevance to national social, cultural and economic objectives.


The role of the CEO is critical to the success of the NCCA. Reporting to the Chair and a Council of 25 members, the CEO guides the NCCA’s strategic and operational engagement. and brings vision, strategic leadership and effective management across NCCA’s work to ensure that it discharges its functions effectively and maximises its impact on enhancing the quality of the education experience of all students. The CEO also develops effective external stakeholder relationships and engages strategically with senior decision makers to support effective curriculum and assessment development and implementation.


Minster Foley said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Ms. Arlene Forster as the CEO of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).  The work of the NCCA is pivotal in the development, planning and reviewing of curriculum and assessment provision in schools and I am confident that this important work will continue successfully under her leadership.”


The Minister thanked John Hammond, the outgoing CEO, for his dedicated service in the NCCA and wished him well in his retirement.   


Professor Mary O’Sullivan, NCCA Chair said: “Ms. Arlene Forster is a wonderful appointee as CEO of the NCCA and will bring a depth of leadership and educational experiences to this role.  Council members and I look forward to working with Arlene and the NCCA executive in achieving the key priorities of the council’s strategic plan.”


Notes for Editors

Role of the CEO:

The CEO’s key responsibilities include but are not limited to:


  • Advising and supporting the council in developing a vision and strategic direction for the council’s statutory remit


  • Ensuring the whole organisation delivers on its strategic plan and on its annual plan of work within the policy framework of the Department of Education


  • Leading, planning, managing and evaluating the council’s processes of review and development in curriculum and assessment. Significant current work includes


  • Progressing a major review of the primary curriculum including public consultation on an overview of a redeveloped curriculum. 


  • the development of a new, restructured curriculum for primary schools which began with the integrated primary language curriculum and will be followed by the mathematics curriculum (key components of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy)


  • Progressing a major review of Senior Cycle education while continuing to build and enjoy stakeholder and public support in the process


  • ongoing review and revision of Senior Cycle subject curricula and development of new subject specifications


  • supporting the implementation of the early childhood curriculum framework


  • contributing to work on transitions from school to higher education.


  • Continuing to ensure that the NCCA’s high standing in Irish education is maintained, that its credibility with stakeholders and the public confidence it enjoys is fully maintained, and that this is achieved through fidelity and alignment with its strategic plan, plan of work, broader departmental action plans and policies, and through strong relationships with the Department of Education.  


  • Using participative approaches effectively in developing and implementing strategies for change and supporting system curriculum and assessment capacity development


  • Developing liaison links and collaboration with the partners in education, the State Examinations Commission, and other relevant bodies in furtherance of the aims of the NCCA


  • Engaging with the media, the education sector and with the general public to promote awareness of and engagement with NCCA work


  • Engaging with relevant education research organisations and with equivalent curriculum and assessment organisations internationally to ensure NCCA’s work is fully informed by best practice developments and by research evidence.


  • Acting as the accountable person, ensuring compliance with Government policies, preparing strategic and annual business plans, objectives, targets, outputs and outcomes, annual reports, and providing accounts and other information as may be required from time to time in adherence to governance, accountability, quality and performance management requirements


  • Leading the management team and ensuring that staff, financial and other resources are used effectively and efficiently


  • Effective reporting to and engagement with the Minister and Department of Education and the Government


Key working relationships for the CEO in the NCCA are internally with the chair of council and council members and with the executive team. The CEO‘s significant external relationships include but are not limited to the Secretary General and senior officials in the Department of Education and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the CEOs of the State Examinations Commission, Teaching Council and the Higher Education Authority and the leadership of organisations representing school management, teachers and parents and early childhood sector.


Appointment of the CEO:

The CEO position was advertised by the Public Appointments Service on 14 August and selection was made under a Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) process.

In accordance with Section 43 of the Education Act, the CEO was appointed by the Minister.

This is a five -year fixed-term appointment.

Ms. Forster was previously the Deputy Chief Executive of the NCCA.

The NCCA currently has a full time executive staff of 45 led by the Chief Executive.

In 2020, the NCCA is grant funded by the Department in the amount of circa. €6m. 

The website of the NCCA is www.ncca.ie