Thursday, 14 January 2021
Covid-19 (Higher Education): Statements
I thank the Deputy for his work in advocating the establishment of my Department. I acknowledge the significant work he put into the policy development side of it. I hope we are beginning to see the merits and benefits of the Department. I thank him also for his kind words in regard to the researchers and the work my Department and the HEA are doing in that regard. When we get to the review of the national development plan and, indeed, when we are talking about every capital plan in this country, we need to realise that capital projects are not just about concrete; they are about human capital. I know the Deputy knows that and I look forward to working with him to try to win that argument across the various debates.
In regard to the leaving certificate examination, the Minister for Education has very kindly invited representatives from my Department to sit on the advisory group she has established. My Department is working hand in glove with her officials to try to tease out some of the issues. I very much share her ambition to hold the traditional leaving certificate examination this year. I look forward to her being able to put more details in that regard into the public domain shortly. I take the Deputy's point about the need for an earlier physical sitting should a contingency plan be put in place.
Finally, we can have a proper discussion on this at a later debate but on the whole issue of CAO reform and broader choices, I had a very good meeting with guidance counsellors last week. This is one of the exciting projects I want my Department to drive. We are narrowing the choices of young people in this country far too early and narrowing the conversation they are having. I would be delighted to work with the Deputy on that issue.