Tag Archives: primary

Richard Bruton and his Cup and Ball Trick

A few days ago our new Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton announced an increase in the number of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in the Irish School System.  Not just one or two, but 860 new SNAs.

This sounds brilliant, and a lot of it is good news.  But I have a fear that there is a lot of plastering over the cracks going on.  Why?  Well there are three main areas that are glossed over in the reports:

 

Population increase.

Ireland’s Population is on the increase.  The 2008 population of Ireland was 4.46 million, and the 2015 population was 4.63 million according to this site. That’s an increase of 170,000 people.

The CSO estimated that the primary school population would go from 502,300 to 556,500 in the period from 2011 to 2016.  In the same period the secondary school population was to grow from 342,400 to 368,600.  That’s a total increase of 80,400.  I think it’s fair to assume a number of those students will need the help of an SNA, don’t you?

 

Shifting Goalposts

In this Irish Examiner article I found the most misleading statement from the Minister to be that every child who needs an SNA will have one.  However, the Department of Education has shifted the goalposts regarding what constitutes “need”.  This article from RTE mentions students who need help with toilet or mobility issues.  The entitlement is restricted to those students with physical needs.

Really?

Yes, students who have physical needs require and deserve support, but what about the student with ADHD, the student who is diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder?  What about students with a range of conditions that prevent them from functioning to their best ability in a mainstream classroom?

Students who would have qualified for an SNA ten years ago are denied access to an SNA under the new regime.  This fact is being buried under an announcement that highlights a necessary increase, but does not address the very many students who have no support.  And this can only hurt their educational achievement.

 

It’s all about the Money, Money, Money

Minister Bruton has said that the money for the extra SNAs will come from his existing budget.  That really doesn’t bode well.  The Education budget has seen some brutal cuts over the past eight years.  I doubt very much that it will be possible to strip assets from one area without causing significant damage.

As it stands the Irish Government seems to be pursuing a policy of Education by budget rather than by aspiration.

And as for Minister Bruton?  He has, rather cleverly, diverted our attention to a good news story so as to distract us to the ongoing affect of continued Austerity in Education.

cup-and-ball-trick

 

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Now You See It…

If you’re anything like me, you love Derren Brown.  He’s a bit of a genius, illusionist, mentalist, clever and challenging.

He’s also a bit of a trickster.

He has one particular move I like, he gets the unsuspecting victim to willingly hand over his wallet.  Just like this:

Which brings me to this RTE headline yesterday.  On the face of it, things look great.  1,700 new teachers and SNAs (Special Needs Assistants) to be employed in Irish Schools.  All good, yes?

Well, as always, it’s a little more complicated.  While the headline does grab your attention, the details of the article take a lot of the shine away:

  • 10,000 new students entering primary level each year
  • 4,000 new students entering second level each year
  • The cost of college registration to increase.  Again.
  • The budget for new schools (needed for the extra numbers) is to be cut by €10,000,000
  • Funding for second level schools (Capitation, the grant per student in school) is being reduced again.  This time by 1%
  • Funding for third level colleges also to be reduced by 1%

That’s the new cuts.

There’s still no reverse on the reprehensible decision to remove guidance counsellors from secondary schools.  No decision to restore middle management in schools.

For years now the budget for education has been cut. The new posts in the headline don’t do anything to change the pupil/teacher ratio – it only maintains the current crazy level.  Schools have been forced to cut subjects, options, programmes and supports for students.

These are not cuts in education. They are attacks on education.

Minister Joan Burton was on Matt Cooper’s show a few weeks ago and said something like ‘Austerity is over’.

Austerity is not over.  Certainly not if you’re in education.  And just like Derren Brown, the government has managed to dip into the pocket of the education sector once more.

The Minister’s Real Speech

It’s A Tuesday in Easter…

Teachers, it’s a pleasure for me to have the chance to speak to & berate you today.

This is my fourth year addressing you, and I’m determined to make headlines today.  Enough of Man U holding the limelight today.

Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, the primary lot.

Yes.  We’re in a hole.  i’d like to blame the other lot, but I’ve used that line enough already. So let’s talk about how you lot are underqualified. First up, you only had to do three years in college to train as primary teachers, I’m changing that.  Plus, you lot aren’t good enough at maths.  Lets see, a starting point is that you’ll have to do honours maths for the leaving.  You see, girls are lazy.  You’re going to drop honours maths after the Junior Cert if we give you half a chance.  So, you have to keep it on.  So there.

Second.  I’m a bit upset.  All the women in here and I don’t even get a cup of tae?  What’s the point in having a feminised profession if you lot can’t even put on the kettle?

To address this, I’m changing the law.  We already have FEMPI, but I’m now changing the education act to get rid of teachers that are sub-standard.  And to keep an eye on these standards I’m the one who sets the standards.  There.  That should reassure ye.

Now, about this religious malarkey.  I got an idea yesterday.  How’s about we put the religion classes at the start of the day, or at the end?  I know, I know.  You then have students who have no room to go to.  Look, I know I’m taking as many teachers out of the system as possible, but can’t you just play musical chairs with them.  And yes, I do include all you lot who’d be in one-teacher-schools-if-I-get-my-way.

I’m not anti-religion. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll quote Hans Kung.  There, see?  But I will take the chance to boast that my first full day on the job was the day I started to look for ways to get the church out of as many schools as possible.

Remember I’m not anti-religion.  We must respect the rights of families who want their children to be given a religions education.  That’s in the constitution.  Unfortunately.

Later that day…

You lot are the secondary teachers, yeah?

First up.  Have you got around to telling me what you want yet?  Don’t bother with that resources rubbish.  I want to know what you want so that you will do what I want.

Here it is.  Let’s work to support inclusion and giving students a chance.  Let’s not let that bit about the guidance counsellers come between friends.  Come on.  You know that wasn’t a real job.  If the kids really cared then they’d find out what their subject choice and college options were.  I mean, that worked for me and my buddies in the bish.

Now.  the JCSA.  Let’s be clear.  We all agree that the current Junior Cert needs reform.  The best advice that I can get (while avoiding teachers) is that my pet-project is the way to go.  What we have isn’t working, and I’m the boss, so what I say goes.  Yes, I will pretend to keep listening to you lot, but consultation is not spelled n-e-g-o-t-i-a-t-i-o-n.

Now it seems to me that your unions don’t like what I have in mind.  So, I think that they aren’t doing their job.  They seem to think that you are not up to the task of working over 60 hours a week.  I say let’s prove them wrong.  I’ve already gotten away with taking about 20% of your pay, forcing you do do S&S and adding 33 hours of meetings.  Let’s face it, it’s not as if I trust you to work unless I get the principals to roll-call you after hours.

To re-enforce that point I’m changing the law and the Teaching Council will be allowed to continue the beatings until morale improves.

I look forward to seeing you all next year.  By then I hope that you’ll be too knackered to kick up a fuss.