The Department of Education was formed under the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924. In 2007 it was renamed the Department of Education and Science. In 2010 it became the Department of Education and Skills.
The Department of Education has the overall responsibility for the development of the Irish education system. It is involved in a broad range of activities including preparation, administering, legislation, and formulating policies, setting standards and monitoring and evaluating programs. It is formed under the Ministers and Secretaries Act.
The Department of Educations and Skills is to provide high-quality education to enable individuals to develop their full potential and participate fully as members of the society and contribute to Ireland’s social, cultural and economic development.
High-level goals include
- supporting and improving the quality and inclusiveness of education for every learner in schools,
- enhance the opportunity for further education and youth services,
- strengthen and sustain higher education research.
- support delivery and development of education through policy formulation, high-quality planning and strong customer focus.
- provides advice to the Minister
- researches, evaluates and reviews policy in all areas of education.
- ensures high-quality education to the Inspectorate at first and second level and through partnership with the responsible authorities, in higher education.
It discharges a range of operational, resources and support functions relating funding, payment of teachers and non-teaching staff, school grants, education bodies and the allocation of teaching resources.
It provides psychological and school transport services. It provides a range of personnel and staff-related functions. It plans and provides educational infrastructure to support high-quality education at all levels. It enhances education through cooperation on a North-South basis and involvement in a variety of EU and international agencies.
Corporate Services and Internal Administration provide services for the entire Department. This includes divisions dealing with
- Accommodation and Services,
- Change Management Unit,
- Correspondence & Oireachtas Unit,
- Finance Unit,
- Freedom of Information Unit
- Human Resources Unit,
- Internal Audit.
- IT Support and Legal Services,
- Management Advisory Committee Support Unit and
- the Minister’s Office.
The Offices of the Ministers for State are organised within the Department and undertake certain matters delegated to the Minister. The Press Office deals with media and queries.
Further and Higher Education
The Training and Further and Higher Education Sections comprise a number of subsections: The SOLAS (FÁS) Liaison Section t advises on the development of policy in the area of skills development and liaises with SOLAS. It monitors its performance and activity.
The Further Education section promotes, coordinates, and funds the development of further education programs to young persons and adults who have left school early or who need further vocational education to enhance their employment prospects and to progress their education up the National Framework of Qualifications. It provides support and advice on the development of policy, promotes issues to address skills needs, promotes social inclusion and seeks to allocate resources equitably.
The Higher Education (Research and Finance) Section formulates and reviews budgetary allocations for higher education. This includes funding of Universities, Institutes of Education, the Higher Education Authority and HEA designated institutions. It operates via the HEA which deals with the individual budgets of the institutions and resources. Non-designated HEA institutions are funded directly by the Department.
The Unit is responsible for the development and implementation of policy in relation to high-quality research and innovation capabilities in higher education institutions. It is involved in the Free Fees initiative and free tuition scheme for the middle-level technician and higher technical business skills.
The Higher Education Policy and Skills Section is responsible for analysis, development, review and implementation of higher education policy. It does so in the light of the current and future skill needs of the economy. It liaises with other Departments in relation to reforms in Education and Training, liaises with the Higher Education Authority and co-operates with the Department of Enterprise, Jobs, and its agencies in issues in relation to workforce skills development, including apprenticeship training. It participates in meetings of the joint Department of Education, HEA and Department of Finance Unit to monitor the progress of the Employment Control Framework.
Higher Education Equity of Access Section is responsible for leading the development of national policy on equity of access particularly for those who are underrepresented in the sector. It is responsible for dedicated measures which seek to facilitate greater participation by disadvantaged students, mature students and students with disability. It provides assistance under student grant schemes.
It addresses, through the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education under-representation in higher education amongst particular groups. It is also responsible for a number of third-level scholarship opportunities.
Building and Development
The Planning and Buildings Unit identifies needs for school accommodation using statistical and other information. It specifies technical standards for educational building and ensures maintenance of standards. It deals with the allocation of resources and oversees the delivery of the capital program. The responsibility for smaller projects may be devolved to VECs and other entities. The Third Level Building Unit works closely with the HEA in relation to capital matters in relation to third-level education.
The School Capital Appraisal considers proposed capital spending. The Architectural Planning Section manages the early stages of architectural planning for capital school building programme. The Schools’ Construction and Developing Unit is responsible for progressing traditional building projects through construction and handover. The Forward Planning Unit uses statistics from various sources to identify future needs.
The Property Management and Site Acquisition Unit is responsible for acquiring sites and for the management of properties vested in the Minister.
The Third Level Building Unit and Building Unit Financial Section work closely HEA, Institutes of Technology and other third levels to manage and administer multi-annual capital investment in education. The Building Unit Financial Section deals with financing and handling of monies in connection with capital matters.
The PPP Unit deals with the provision of schools and educational establishments under the government’s Public-Private Partnership program. The Technical and Professional Section provides technical input into the design and construction of buildings.
The Central Policy Unit coordinates the Department’s research and development function. It coordinates value for money reviews and has taken over the role of the Gender Equality Unit. It reviews policy proposals and supports Department’s role in relation to cross-departmental and internal policy issues.
The Information and Communications Technology Policy Unit promotes ICT access and integration at first and second-level education. It administers ICT infrastructure grants and supports schools in the development of computer networks. It develops future policy.
The International Services Section represents the Department in the context of EU Policy and policy in other fora such as the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the Council of Education Ministers. It promotes the European dimension in education. It monitors and implements EU Programs by the National Agencies. It manages a number of scholarship schemes in summer schools.
The North/South Co-operation Unit is responsible for North/South co-operation in the area of education under the Good Friday Agreement. It liaises with departments in Northern Ireland as well as England Scotland and Wales on matters of common interest. It administers the North/South and East/West educational exchange programme.
It administers a range of initiatives including scholarships and bursaries. It develops co-operation initiatives between Ireland and the USA including the George Mitchell Scholarship Program. It administers EU-funded programs supporting North/South co-operation, including the PEACE and INTERREG Programs.
The Structural Funds Unit reports on progress under the National Development Plan for the education sector and particularly those aided by European Union Structural Funds.
The Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Unit maintains integrity and momentum in curricular reforms in collaboration with the National Council for Curriculum Assessment, the State Examinations Commission and other stakeholders. It is responsible for the implementation of a national framework of qualifications through the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Further Education Training Awards Council and the Higher Education Training Awards Council. It coordinates the implementation of EU Directives on mutual recognition of qualifications.
The Statistics Section is responsible for the collection and analysis of statistical data and the identification of trends relating to education at a national level.
The Schools’ Division is responsible for staffing and financial resources for post-primary and primary schools. It issues directions to schools on governance and policy issues including those relating to terms and conditions of staff. This typically operates by way of circulars.
The Teaching and Special Needs Assistants Unit deals with employment terms and conditions governing teachers and special needs assistants employed in recognised schools. It monitors statutory leave, absenteeism, sick leave, etc. It manages the Occupational Health Strategy. It processes applications for incremental credits and allowances. If deals with inquiries under VEC Acts and disciplinary processes under the Education Act.
The Teacher Allocation and School Governance Policy Unit allocates teacher’s posts to schools and VECs. It allocates teaching resources and provides administrative support to the independent Staffing Appeals Board.
The Schools Financial and VEC (now ETB) Administration Personnel Unit promotes governance, accountability and financial control systems for VECs and certain first and second-level schools. It administers the VEC Acts and ETB Acts and coordinates and arranges a range of administrative and school maintenance personnel services at certain schools and VECs (ETBs). It allocates budgets to VECs (ETB schools and colleges) community and comprehensive schools and administers a range of grant schemes in funding to primary and post-primary schools through per capita and other grant schemes.
The Parents, Learners and Database Unit hears appeals under Section 29 of the Education Act. It provides advice to parents on the operation of schools’ complaint procedures and manages the Post Primary Pupil Database.
The School Transport Unit administers the school transport service for students in primary and post-primary schools, including children with special needs. This scheme is operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
The Department’s Inspectorate evaluates the education system. It provides advice to those in the system and contributes to the development of policy. The role is defined under Section 13 of the Education Act. It operates in accordance with the Professional Code of Practice on Evaluating and Reporting. It supports policy development within the Department and provides representation on national and local bodies and agencies.
Special Education Services
The Special Education, Social Inclusion and Educational Psychological Services Section develops the policy for children with special educational needs. It develops effective services for them. It maintains links with the National Council for Special Education whose remit includes the direct delivery of services that facilitate access to education for children with disabilities.
The National Educational Psychological Service supports the personal, social, and educational development of children through the application of psychological theory and practice in education. It is organised on a regional basis with psychologists being assigned to a group in schools. Alternatively, schools may be permitted to avail of independent employed panels of psychologists.
The Social Inclusion Unit supports a socially inclusive society through education with equal opportunities. It delivers the equality of opportunities action plan and addresses the educational needs of children from disadvantaged communities from preschool through to second-level education. It manages a range of early learning and educational disadvantage initiatives. It promotes and monitors progress towards the achievement of education policies in government programs.
The Integration Section coordinates policies for the integration of immigrants across the spectrum of education. It seeks to ensure that they perform to the best of their ability. It manages implementation of strategy for intercultural education.
Residential Institutions Redress Unit and High Supports Special Schools manage the Department’s response to child abuse in residential institutions. It performed roles in relation to the Commission to inquire into child abuse and the implementation of the Commission’s Report. It supports the Residential Institutions Redress Board. It provides information to former residents of Industrial and Reformatory schools under the Freedom of Information Act.
The High Supports Special Schools plans provides for the delivery of education services for children in Youth Encounter Projects, Child Detention Centres, High Support Responsibility Special Schools, Special Care Units and certain other projects.
Responsibility for remand and detention in most of the Children Detention Centres is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Equality. Other residential centres are under the HSE. Responsibility for education services within the centres lies with the Department of Education and Skills. Day-to-day delivery of education is managed through the ETBs.
The External Staff Relations Unit manages Industrial Relations in the education sector. It seeks to promote good industrial relations practice and support modernisation through partnership. It deals with the negotiations of claims.
The Payroll Division deals with payroll services for teaching and non-teaching staff in first and second-level schools. It also pays retired personnel. It manages statutory and non-statutory deductions.
The Pensions Service administers the pension scheme for Teachers and Special Needs Assistants. It provides policy advice on pensions to VECs and Colleges of Education. It processes and deals with retirement benefits. It develops and reviews superannuation policy.
The Teacher Education Section deals with career development for teachers. It provides funding and management for in-service training at first and second level. It supports curricular reform and new programs through Education Centre’s, Colleges and Third-Level Institutions. It funds Education Centres. It agrees on intake levels for the supply of teachers in primary schools, and, in some cases post-primary schools. It provides in-service programs for Learning Support Teachers.
The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2020 provides for the establishment of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
The primary purpose of the legislation is to establish a new Department of State to be known as An Roinn Breisoideachais agus Ardoideachais, Taighde, Nuálaíochta agus Eolaíochta or in the English language, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
When nominating the members of the Government in Dáil Éireann on 27 June 2020, the Taoiseach announced the establishment of a new Department of State to be responsible for a range of issues including further and higher education, research, innovation and science. As there is no Department in existence (the functions or name of which could be transferred or altered) it is necessary to establish a new Department of State alongside the existing 17 Departments.
The member of Government in charge of the Department shall be known, in the Irish language, as an An tAire Breisoideachais agus Ardoideachais, Taighde, Nuálaíochta agus Eolaíochta or, in the English language, as the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.