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The Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan launched a draft plan to improve literacy and numeracy standards titled ‘Better Literacy and Numeracy for Children and Young People: A Draft National Plan to Improve Literacy and Numeracy in Schools’.

The plan was drafted in response to the findings of a report, ‘Incidental Inspections 2010′, published by the Inspectorate of the Minister’s department on the outcomes of unannounced inspections in primary schools in the last year. The inspectors found that over 80 percent of lessons were satisfactory or better. However, over 14 percent of English and mathematics lessons were unsatisfactory. It was also found that teachers’ preparation was unsatisfactory for approximately a 25 percent of lessons, and that teachers’ assessment of pupils’ achievement was unsatisfactory in 33 percent of cases. The ‘National Assessment of Mathematics and English Reading 2009’ published recently by the Educational Research Centre has shown weaknesses in primary school pupils’ comprehension of English and poor performance in areas of primary mathematics such as measurement and problem-solving.

The Tánaiste said that she wanted to prioritise the teaching, learning and assessment of literacy and numeracy at all levels of the school and pre-school system. The draft plan, she said, set out the actions that she believed would be necessary to improve literacy and numeracy standards. She invited everyone in the education system and the wider public to contribute their ideas on how the plan could be strengthened.

The draft plan sets out national targets covering early childhood, primary education and post-primary education. The targets seek to foster a better culture of reading and more positive attitudes towards mathematics among young people. Under the proposals, each school would be required to set and monitor progress in achieving its own demanding but realistic targets in literacy and numeracy.

Changes proposed in the school system include:  improving teacher education for pre-school, primary and post-primary teachers, prioritising literacy and numeracy teaching in pre-schools, and schools and using a range of measures to enable parents and communities to support their children’s literacy and numeracy development more effectively.