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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.7 Skills for innovation

Last update: 28 November 2023

Innovation in formal education

Innovation’s inclusion in the school curriculum

Towards Learning: An Overview of Senior Cycle Education (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, 2009) identified ‘Creativity and innovation’ as a principal of the senior cycle education which informs curriculum planning, development, provision, and implementation in schools. Both traditional and vocational curriculums at senior cycle provides opportunities for learners to develop their abilities and talents in the areas of creativity, innovation, and enterprise.

Transition Year is an optional one-year programme following the completion of the junior cycle. It has a more flexible structure than the other years, with each school designing its own programme, within guidelines, to suit the needs and interests of its learners. Transition Year aims include fostering a spirit of enterprise, for example through students partaking in work experience.

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is an intervention designed to enhance the vocational dimension of the Leaving Certificate (established) (a state examination at the completion of upper secondary school). It combines the academic strengths of the Leaving Certificate (established) with a dynamic focus on self–directed learning, innovation, and enterprise. Throughout the programme students are encouraged to be innovative and enterprising. As part of the LCVP, students take a compulsory subject called Enterprise Education. This subject includes students visiting local business and community enterprises; and students meeting and interviewing enterprising people.

Local Enterprise Offices run several Student Entrepreneurship Initiatives in secondary schools which foster innovation within students. These are discussed in section 3.8.


Pedagogical tools and support

The Action Plan for Education 2019 (DES, 2019, pp. 7) includes a commitment ‘to the principles of continuous improvement, innovation and evaluation which will underpin evidence-based policy development and programme delivery.’ It lists innovation as ‘an integral element of our approach not only within the curriculum but also in broader education and training policy’. Among its key actions are to ‘Foster a culture of innovation in the Department’ and to ‘Explore innovative approaches to improving the outcomes for learners at greatest risk of educational disadvantage’.

In ‘Building Momentum- the Education Action Plan’ for 2021-2022, the Department in Priority 2 recognised the need to build on previous improvements and co-operation with Covid-19 related emergency measures.

The TL21 Programme is a workshop-based Continuing Professional Development Programme for teachers and school leaders that promotes innovative practice and professional learning communities in post-primary schools. Its main aims are:

  • to strengthen teachers’ capacities as co-operative and self-critical authors of their own work
  • to enable students to take an active and responsible part in their own learning.

The programme is currently running as a partnership between the Maynooth University Department of Education, five Education Centres and Dublin & Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board. In the 2019-2021 cycle, there are 70+ schools and 400+ teachers/senior school leaders are actively involved. In September 2021 a new cycle will begin and will run until 2023.

University College Dublin offers a Professional Diploma in Creativity and Innovation for Education, which is open to education professionals at all levels. The course aims to aid educators in developing their own Creativity, Entrepreneurial Mindset and Leadership, as well as Teamwork, Resilience and Approaches to Learning.

The Student Enterprise Programme’s provides free teacher resource packs to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. These are discussed in Chapter 3.8.


Fostering innovation through non-formal and informal learning and youth work

Young Social Innovators (YSI) promotes education for social innovation. It empowers and supports young people to realise their potential as social innovators, giving them the skills and confidence to tackle the social issues facing them, their communities and wider society. Social innovation learning builds wellbeing amongst young people and communities and helps build a more inclusive, empathetic, fair society. It asks young people to examine the world through a new lens and to reimagine the type of society they would like to live in. It challenges them to put their ideas into practice and to bring their vision to reality. Alongside private sponsors, it is funded by several public sponsors:

  • Department of Rural and Community Development           
  • Department of Education & Skills
  • Department of Children & Youth Affairs
  • Department of Social Protection
  • HSE
  • WorldWise Global Schools
  • Dormant Accounts.

YSI Den, is a social innovation fund, ran by Young Social Innovators. It is made available to groups who successfully pitch for assistance to support or develop an idea, product or enterprise. Supports can include money, means and mentoring. Young Social Innovators is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development. 


Creative Youth

Aiming to “give every child practical access to tuition, experience and participation in art, music, drama and coding by 2022”, the Creative Youth Plan sets out how we will meet the overall Programme objectives for children and young people.

Creative Youth aims to increase opportunities for activity and participation, and to influence public policy around creativity in both formal education and out-of-school settings. We want to create a place where knowledge and creativity are equal partners in the formation of our young people, giving them an opportunity to become creative, active citizens.

In 2020 Creative Youth published a Progress Report regarding their response to Covid-19. In a time of national crisis, the Creative Ireland Programme worked at speed and with agility to activate creative programmes that helped participants to combat isolation, create social cohesion and enhance a sense of wellbeing. This programme worked with partners in government and local authorities, and supported the work of communities, cultural practitioners and other organisations to create initiatives that targeted citizens who were particularly impacted by the pandemic.

The Youth Climate Justice Fund is a fund to support youth-led action and innovation on Climate Justice at community, regional and national level. It aims to support climate action and youth innovation. Applications under the Fund are open to national youth organisations being funded under the Youth Services Grant Scheme, and to the President’s Award (Gaisce). In 2021 the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth approved funding to support 14 youth-led projects in the area of climate justice. In line with the recommendations of a specially convened Selection Committee, funding of almost €400,000 is being allocated to projects involving 23 youth organisations.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is a youth entrepreneurship education and development programme. It is managed and provided by Foróige in Ireland and is affiliated to NFTE International. Foróige is funded by multiple government departments and agencies (including the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; and Education & Training Boards), European Social Fund and corporate donations. NFTE also receives specific funding from The Irish Funds grants. NFTE is discussed in further detail in Chapter 3.8.

The Skills Summary Guide for Youth Work Organisations (National Youth Council of Ireland, 2019) is a guide for youth workers, and other adults engaging young in non-formal and informal education, to use the Skills Summary to help young people to develop 12 keys skills. One of these skills, entrepreneurship, includes innovation.