Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD says the PISA scores of Irish students are encouraging but nonetheless reveal that more focus is needed on improving science and maths skills.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the OECD which examines students’ performance across a range of areas. The latest results were released earlier today and show Ireland is in the top 3 countries in the OECD for literacy and reading. However science and maths remain a challenge, with Irish students ranked at 13th place for these subjects.

Deputy Byrne said, “These results clearly show that our teachers and other school staff are doing an exceptional job in educating our young people. Improvements are needed in science and maths but this is a challenge that we can overcome. We need to continue curriculum improvements and pedagogical innovations in science and maths, to ensure students are interested, challenged and engaged. We also need to undertake a review of science lab facilities in schools and invest in areas where problems are identified.

“It’s important to note that the annual feeder school rankings show huge disparity in third level attendance, particularly for students from disadvantaged areas. One of the greatest challenges we face as a society will be to ensure that a wider section of our communities may fully reap the benefits of our education system.

“The feeder school rankings show some areas in Dublin sent fewer than 8% of young people to higher-points courses in third level. This contrasts to more affluent areas where 100% of young people in schools progress to third level. This worrying trend is also evident in parts of Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Longford, Wexford, Louth and Sligo.

“These figures reveal the depth of education disparity which remains in our education system. We need to achieve early education intervention to tackle this problem. While the DEIS programme has been a vital policy tool for combating education disadvantage, the programme is becoming increasingly less relevant as new schools have not been given the opportunity to apply for the scheme.

“I have called on Minister for Education Richard Bruton to stop fiddling around the edges and show a more determined commitment to addressing inequalities in our education system. I firmly believe that both the DEIS and School Competition Programmes must be reformed and expanded as a matter of urgency.”