In 2011, the Department of Education and Skills continued to endeavour to meet the needs of all of our customers and stakeholders by ensuring that our service is capable and efficient, and our education system is dynamic and responsive to our educational, cultural and economic requirements. Amid the environmental challenges, such as increasing demographic demands and fiscal constraints, which are currently being placed on the education system, the Department continued to strive to improve educational outcomes and achieve structural reform within the sector in line with the Government’s reform agenda and its growth and employment strategy. Due to the challenging environment in which we are currently operating, there has been a need for organisations in all sectors to review their business processes in order to ensure maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the delivery of their services and as a result there is now unprecedented momentum for reform and innovation throughout the public service. This presented new challenges and direction for all public service organisations in 2011, including the Department of Education and Skills, and will continue to do so into the future. The reform programme in the Education sector is highly complex, with interdependencies across a range of projects. These changes include reform of initial teacher education; curricular reform, including reform of the Junior Certificate; improving our national literacy and numeracy standards; school patronage; introducing new quality assurance and assessment measures in schools; adapting our education system to produce graduates to meet the needs of our labour market and to reduce unemployment and major reform of the third level sector to maximise existing funding.
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Inspection findings from the first full year of operation of the EYEI Model were reviewed and a comprehensive composite report “Insights and Future Developments – A Review of Early-Years Education-Focused Inspection: April 2016 – June 2017” was published in January 2018. The review showed that the introduction of Early Years Education Inspection by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills was widely welcomed. In particular, the inspections were endorsed as a mechanism for recognising and validating the work of early years settings and early years practitioners in their provision for the early education and care of young children. Evaluation findings highlighted that, whilst the majority of settings were staffed by highly committed staff and were providing welcoming and safe environments for young children, many were challenged in relation to the provision of early educational experiences. Challenges have been identified across all domains of education practice, including: the degree to which curricula and programmes of learning are informed by Aistear, the way assessment of learning strategies and processes are used, how “Assessment for Learning” is employed to inform the next steps in children’s learning and the pedagogical strategies used by early years practitioners to support and extend children’s learning.
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To help foster stronger links between employers and the education and training sector, the Department has established a network of 9 Regional Skills Fora each with a Manager. The Regional Skills Fora have developed work plans and will submit progress reports to the Department on a quarterly basis. At this point the nine Regional Skills Fora have been established for just over six months and are at varying stages of development. Early indications from their work are positive about the potential of the Fora to have a major impact at regional level in bringing together the key stakeholders to develop swift responses to emerging needs and also to build better data around the needs of enterprise and employers in the region. Ongoing interaction with the Fora is planned to ensure their work is fully supported and we will be prioritising the production of robust information to be presented to the National Skills Council when established.
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1.14.4 With regard to the larger issue of the specific needs of Gaeltacht and Irish-medium schools, a high-level group will review existing policies and explore possible changes, including the development of a new policy for Gaeltacht and Irish-medium schools. Other possible functions for COGG will also be considered in the context of these discussions. The high-level group will have representation from relevant stakeholders, including the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, COGG, Foras na Gaeilge and Údarás na Gaeltachta.
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Other notable cross-cutting issues include interaction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and local authorities in planning for the provision of new schools to meet the needs of emerging communities, implementing Government strategy for future skills supply and developing our research and development capacity (with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and others), advancing the broad social inclusion agenda, including the implementation of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, (with Department of the Taoiseach and others), the development of policies to promote the Irish language, the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy, the RAPID programme (with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs), the promotion of equality measures across the education system (in liaison with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Equality Authority) and the implementation of Reach Out: The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (in collaboration with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive).
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Given the importance of education and training to social and economic development the Department’s mandate requires its involvement in a significant amount of cross departmental and cross sectoral work delivering on a range of policies led by other Departments. Our current economic difficulties have brought into sharp focus the direct impact that education and training can have on individual opportunity and also in helping to secure jobs and investment and drive economic growth. In this context, the education and training sectors have a particularly important role to play in ensuring that our education and training system at all levels is ensuring our students are equipped with the necessary skills and has an important role in tackling unemployment by providing reskilling and upskilling opportunities for jobseekers.
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The Department’s expenditure allocation for 2013 took account of a number of savings measures decided by Government, estimated to yield savings across the education sector of €90 million in 2013 and €123 million in a full year. However, notwithstanding the requirement to manage within a challenging expenditure ceiling, the education budget for 2013 did include additional funding for a number of important initiatives, including: continued implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and reform of the Junior Cycle; connection of 200 additional schools to high speed broadband; funding for 6,500 places under the Labour Market Education and Training Fund; additional part-time higher education opportunities under the Springboard programme; funding of €5 million for ICT Skills Conversion Courses; and capital funding to allow the commencement in 2013 of works on 50 new schools and major extensions.
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During the year, the Department continued to work with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) on improving the quality of early childhood education. The quality improvement The quality improvement agenda includes the introduction of education-focussed inspections in settings participating in the Free Pre-school Year Scheme. Work began on the development of an appropriate inspection model in 2014 and the inspections, to be carried out by the Inspectorate of the DES at the request of the Ministers for Education and Skills and Children and Youth Affairs, will commence in 2015. A further dimension of the quality agenda is focussed on developing the workforce in the early years sector. In this regard, the DCYA is committed to increasing the minimum qualification requirement so that all staff have to have a relevant Level 5 National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) qualification and pre-school leaders have to have a Level 6 NFQ qualification. The Department worked closely with the DCYA and POBAL on establishing the criteria for a learner fund which would support this upskilling.
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Note: Resource DEL excludes depreciation (and therefore does not include the estimated cost of student loans). ‘Science and research’ includes the activities of the seven research councils, research activities of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the UK Space Agency and the UK Atomic Energy Authority. ‘Innovation, enterprise and business’ includes the Technology Strategy Board and BIS’s launch investments and financial guarantees. ‘Market frameworks’ includes the activities of the Insolvency Service, the Competition Commission, and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. ‘Higher education’ includes the teaching and learning grants of HEFCE and the student support system of grants (including the activities of the Student Loans Company). ‘Further education’ includes the Skills Funding Agency and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. ‘Capability’ includes BIS administrative spending and some other areas of central spending. Figures are in 2013–14 prices, adjusted for inflation using the GDP deflator. Source: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2013; HM Treasury, 2013c.
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Through Webwise, curriculum and other appropriate channels, awareness raising actions and programmes, which promote responsible and ethical use of the internet in schools were developed and made available to schools. The “Be in Ctrl” resource was developed by the Webwise Team in partnership with An Garda Siochána and addresses the issue of online sexual coercion and extortion and supports the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) curriculum. Webwise support forges the link between home and school through the development of an online parenting hub (launched in 2017). This provides parents with easy access to practical advice and information to help address their concerns about the various issues facing their children in the online environment. The new hub features expert advice from professionals and offers useful conversation starters and tips on managing internet safety in the home. To support the new online hub, Webwise also launched Parents’ Guide to a Better Internet. This booklet enables parents to talk with confidence to their children about the benefits and risks online such as cyberbullying, screen time, sexting, social media and online pornography.
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I acknowledge the significant work that will be undertaken by staff of the Department and our colleagues throughout the education and training sector to achieve its high level goals and objectives. From an internal Department perspective this will require flexibility, openness to change and a continued focus on business process improvement, while ensuring the on-going provision of a quality service. On a wider public service level, experience and progress on the implementation of public service reform in recent years has highlighted the willingness and commitment of Ireland’s public servants to implement change and contribute to economic recovery. For the Department and our colleagues throughout the education sector, the period covered by the Strategy will be one of significant change and I have every confidence in our commitment and ability to deliver it.
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The Internal Audit Unit at the Department is responsible for providing assurance to the Accounting Officer on the adequacy, efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s risk management, internal control systems and governance processes. The European Social Fund (ESF) Financial Control Unit ensures that Ireland complies with the regulatory requirements of the European Union in relation to the audit of ESF, promotes best practice in the management, control and audit of ESF in Ireland and ensures that audits are performed in accordance with international auditing standards in order to provide high quality, fair and balanced reports. Annual audit programmes are prepared under the auspices of the Audit Committee and both the Internal Audit Unit and the ESF Audit Authority report to the Committee on the conduct of these programmes and the finalisation of audit reports. A total of five internal audit reports were finalised in 2012 and Internal Audit Unit tracked, on a quarterly basis, progress on the implementation of recommendations arising from audit reports.
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The Department continued to actively engage with the Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland in 2015 to share insights and explore possibilities for further cooperation in a wide range of policy areas including: legislative and institutional reform; funding of higher and further education; access/student mobility issues; cross-border student flows; research; and collaboration on EU funding programmes. In 2015, a joint paper was published on cross-border undergraduate and post graduate flows in higher education and further education in 2013/2014. The European Commission adopted the PEACE IV programme in late 2015. PEACE IV aims to deepen reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland and tackle remaining challenges through investments in shared education, shared spaces and services and projects that will bring people together. Objective 1 of PEACE IV on ‘Shared Education’ is intended to contribute to the creation of a more cohesive society by increasing the level of collaboration between schools representing different sectors, and direct, sustained and curriculum-based contact between pupils and teachers from all backgrounds across the Programme area (the six counties of NI plus the six border counties).
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4.6.28 Two Government Offices we interviewed said that they were talking to each other; North West expressed a specific wish to have more inter- Government Office meetings to share information and lessons, and most Government Offices admitted that they should know more about what happens in other Government Offices and government departments. There was at that time no evidence of any co-ordinated approach by any region to share or pool information either within or across regions for the Community Champions Fund. However, Department for Education and Skills has now provided a database containing information on all Community Champions, which is accessible by all Government Offices.
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employers and individual students may not correlate with the wider interests of society. Furthermore, “students by definition having not yet completed their education are not in a strong position to determine what this education should be ” (Williams, 2013, p. 53). The concept of quality is thus becoming less about “ academic quality ” and more about the “general student experience” (McGettigan, 2013, p. 4). In this context, although marketisation may improve the perceived “quality of service” (Brown & Carasso, 2013, p. 125), there are many indicators that marketisation, coupled with increasing emphasis on privatisation and reductions in public funding is actually detrimentally affecting the quality of UK HE. The pressure on institutions to aggres- sively compete is diverting resources away from learning and teaching towards marketing activities and the development of non-academic amenities (Brown & Carasso, 2013; McGettigan, 2013). The time spent by both academic staff and their students on teaching and learning related activities is decreasing, due to reductions in contact hours, heavier staff workloads, and higher student-staff ratios. Students are increasingly engaged in part-or full-time work − which is often essential to funding their studies − but this has been demonstrated to negatively impact on academic performance (Brennan, Duaso, Little, Callender, & Van Dyke, 2005; Callender, 2008). Marketisation is also claimed to have contributed to reductions in academic standards, manifest via grade inflation (Bachan, 2017; Yorke, 2009); increases in plagiarism (Brown & Carasso, 2013; Pulfrey & Butera, 2013); pressure on academic staff to lower academic demands (Brown & Carasso, 2013; Furedi, 2011; Soin, Huber, & Wheatley, 2014); and students ’ increasingly instrumental approaches to their studies (Shephard, 2008).
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The key strength of the attainment data is that it is derived from an administrative data collection. This means that it can supply accurate data down to small geographical areas. In addition, the data is merged with other administrative data held by the department (the school census) to provide detailed information on sub-groups of the school population. Pupil level data from different key stages can also be merged so we can monitor attainment for pupils from key disadvantaged groups. More information (including information on users) can be found in the methodology document listed in chapter one of this document.
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De la Croix, D. (1998). ‘Growth and the relativity of satisfaction’, Mathematical Social Sciences, 36. Dearden, L., McIntosh, S., Myck, M. and Vignoles, A. (2001). The Returns to Academic, Vocational, and Basic Skills in Britain, Skills Task Force Research Paper, 2000; A. Chevalier and G. Lanot, The Relative Effect of Family and Financial Characteristics on Education Achievement, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
A family literacy policy is also being put in place under the Departmental action plan. Adult literacy services in the ROI are delivered through the Vocational Education Committees, with a VEC previously operating in each county with (although an on- going programme intends to reduce the overall number of VECs to 16). The VECs are funded via the Department for Education and Science (DES) and the European Social Fund.
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The pupil level characteristic information within these SFRs are derived from school census returns made by state-funded schools during a single selected period of the school day and provided to the Department in January each year. It is a statutory requirement for schools under section 537A of The Education Act 1996 to provide a school census return to the Department. School Census information has been published, and detailed information on the coding of ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, English as a first language and special educational needs can be found in the technical notes of SFRs ‘Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics’ published in June and ‘Special Educational Needs in England’.
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The pupil level characteristic information within these SFRs is derived from school census returns made by state-funded schools during a single selected period of the school day and provided to the Department in January each year. It is a statutory requirement for schools under section 537A of The Education Act 1996 to provide a school census return to the Department. School Census information has been published, and detailed information on the coding of ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, English as a first language and special educational needs can be found in the technical notes of SFRs ‘Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics’ published in June and ‘Special Educational Needs in England’.
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