Agricultural science students and their teachers from 70 schools across Ireland closed their textbooks and put on their wellies last week as a new syllabus is now under way.

Almost 2,000 second level students visited Teagasc colleges and research centres across Ireland to get a day of hands-on learning. It came in the same week as the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) announced that the agricultural science syllabus will be updated after 40 years.

Agri Aware, the Irish agri-food educational body, will work with its IASTA in conjunction with the NCCA, in delivering this new syllabus for students. A background document on the new Agricultural Science syllabus will be delivered by the NCCA in April of this year.

According to Agri Aware, along with the IASTA, it will play a key role in ensuring that the new syllabus is representative of modern farming methods and industry issues, in addition to communicating future requirements of the industry. It said it will work with its 70 patrons who are key stakeholders in the agri-food industry to feed into the development group to be established by the NCCA.

“This is a major development for the sector and great news for all involved. Agri Aware, along with its IASTA and partners have delivered study guides and accompanying educational resources for agricultural science students for over seven years now as the material that was on the old syllabus was 40 years out of date and not representative of modern farming practices. Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk has also been a key event to interact with students in educating them about modern agricultural practices,” it said.

The recent Farm Walk and Talk was organised by Agri Aware, in association with Teagasc, IASTA, members of Meat Industry Ireland, the Irish dairy industry and other key patrons.

Representatives of ABP, Dawn Meats, Kepak, Dunbia and Liffey Meats are delivering educational talks and presentations on meat-related elements of the Agricultural Science syllabus, while representatives of the National Dairy Council, Dairymaster, Aurivo and Arrabawn are providing educational talks on dairy-related elements of the syllabus. ESB Networks and Keenans are delivering the farm safety and animal nutrition talks.

According to AgriAware: “The event provides students with an excellent understanding of the practical elements of the agricultural science syllabus, which can be difficult to teach in a classroom facility.”

Speaking at the launch of Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk in Gurteen Agricultural College, Tipperary, Minister of State Tom Hayes, wished all the students attending the Walk and Talk events “every success with their agricultural science education and their education in general”.

He went on to thank all those responsible for organising the events saying: “The Walk and Talk series is becoming more popular each year and I would like to thank Agri Aware, Teagasc, the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers Association, Meat Industry Ireland and the Irish Dairy Industry for all their hard work in ensuring the events take place this week”.

Agri Aware’s chairman, Bernard Donohue said: “Students experience the various farming techniques that they read so much about and have the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a working farm, covering topics from soils and fertilisers to silage making and livestock. This is particularly beneficial for students who don’t come from a farming background and because the syllabus is outdated by 40 years. We have been astounded by the popularity of the events among teachers and students and look forward to hosting many more walks in the future.”

Executive director of Agri Aware, Dr Vanessa Woods, said: “We are truly delighted with this week’s major development in relation to updating the syllabus as Agri Aware has lobbied hard for a new syllabus that is modern and relevant. We need the brightest and the best students to become future industry leaders, to build on our exports of almost €10 billion in 2013 and to continue to build on our reputation as world class food producers that deliver sustainably produced food from our luscious green healthy grass, whilst caring for our animals, the landscape, waterways and future generations by practicing sustainable intensification. We will work with our patrons from across the agri-food industry to ensure that the new syllabus reflects current and future industry issues.”

Tony Pettit, head of education at Teagasc, commented: “Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk helps to inform students and schools about what happens on farms” and he also highlighted the importance of farming as a business and farmers as managers of the environment.”

Pictured: Launching Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk for second level agricultural science students were Minister of State, Tom Hayes with Eimear Clarke (17), Portumna Community College, Dr. Vanessa Woods, Executive Director Agri Aware and Bernard Donohue, Chairman Agri Aware at Gurteen Agricultural College with a newly born lamb and it’s mother