Well done to our Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan.
She has had the guts to face down the Secondary School Teachers Unions and is pushing ahead with the pet project of her predecessor Ruairi Quinn. (Junior Cert Reform, with teacher assessment)
So, she has faced down our strikes, and is holding fast. So she has courage – well done, Minister, take a bow. Her stand is all the more impressive as she is adamant that all this for the good of the students.
Let’s ignore for a moment the implicit bit that suggests that teachers are not interested in students.
Instead let’s celebrate that we have a minister who is willing to stand up to vested interests. A minister who is willing to risk popularity in order to do the right thing for students.
Minister, I look forward to the day when you will do the following to support our students:
Reduce class sizes. This is an incredibly simple measure, but one that has a huge impact on the dynamics of any classroom. I wrote before about how my daughter was for a time in a class of 34. This is a ridiculous situation and one that should never be allowed to happen. This does have the downside of costing money, but the minister has assured us that the evaluation farce was not about money, so maybe there’s room for maneuver. Call me cynical, but I won’t hold my breath.
Restore Guidance Counsellors. This is another incredibly simple measure, and again has a huge impact on students. Our guidance counsellors do incredible work with students. Apart from the obvious help in subject and college choice, guidance counsellors sit with students in times of crisis. Again, this one would happen to cost money, but I’m sure that the minister will stand up for what’s right, yes? Actually no.
Restore School Budgets. Again, a simple thing to do. Schools get a budget to operate, and this budget is based on the number of students enrolled. For the past few years this budget has been cut, with a further 1% cut due in September. Another simple thing to reverse. But again this isn’t about the money, is it?
Restore resources for Students with Special Educational Needs. Another simple thing. Really, isn’t this not only simple but ethical? Are those with special needs already at enough of a disadvantage in educational terms?
Have an effective budget for book rental schemes, and IT in the classroom. OK. This is more complicated, and requires some real thinking and procedures to go into place. Some real work required here. But it is so necessary. Books are incredibly expensive, and each new school year brings stress to many families trying to dig out extra money for books and uniforms.
As regards IT – there is no cohesive policy, and what you get from school to school can vary radically. So our students do not have a level playing field when we talk about ICT in the classroom, and technology in education generally.
So, so much is just about money, and we have a minister who is willing to stand up to others. So surely she’ll stand up for these principles?
Surely, now that the Minister has shown her mettle in standing up to the unions she will show equal courage standing up to the bean counters? She will stand up to those who have a view that education can be budgeted down to the minimum possible, and then blame the teachers for failing?
But let’s be honest – the minister is showing little enough care for the reality of life for so many students from disadvantaged areas. It is about the money, and there’s no point in pretending anything different. The Minister is failing us, is failing our students – and trying to shift the blame.