Over the past 15 years or so, individual governments worldwide have put an unprecedented focus on educational policy in an effort to ensure the acquisition of literacy skills for all children, recognising underachievement in literacy as a universal social justice issue preventing many individuals from reaching their promise. In Ireland, literacy has recently moved to centre stage with the publication of the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011–2020 (DES, 2011a) and the Policy on the Continuum of Teacher Education (Teaching Council, 2011). How policies are conceived, constructed, interpreted and translated into action on the ground are key determinants of their success to effect change and achieve intended outcomes. This article examines the process of policy development in Ireland. It begins with a brief outline of primary education and then traces the influences that gave rise to the new policies. Next, the key dimensions of the policies and their expected outcomes are outlined. The article concludes with some reflections on the possibilities, challenges and implications for schools and schooling.