The Department of Education is to instruct primary schools to substantially increase the time teachers give to instruction in maths and literacy in the classroom.

It says it will be issuing a circular shortly increasing the time spent on maths from the current 36 minutes a day to 50 minutes from September.

Pupils will also be required to spend 90 minutes each day focusing on literacy skills.

Increasing time spent on these core areas is a key recommendation in a new National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, which was published today.

The plan acknowledges that this will mean reduced time available for subjects other than maths, English and Irish.

It recommends that schools make greater use of standardised testing in both literacy and numeracy.

Under the plan, children will be tested in second and in sixth class and, for the first time, in second year at secondary level.

The number of subjects to be studied for the Junior Certificate will be limited to eight to allow for more in-depth learning.

The new plan sets targets, which include raising current measured standards by 5% across both primary and secondary.

It also maps out broad reforms in teacher training, in teacher professional development and in curriculum content.

The estimated cost of implementing the new strategy is €6m next year, rising to €19m a year by 2017.

In a statement Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said this money would have to be found through the 'reprioritising' of existing spending.