Tag Archives: Teaching Council

Austerity in Education

We are well into our new school year, and hopefully any teachers reading this are doing well – within their classrooms and within themselves.

And while we all get on with our jobs we are being told that the recession is pretty much over.  The headlines are great!  Economy creates 1,000 jobs a week; Tax take €1.4 Bn ahead of forecast.

One of the things that I reckon has slipped under the radar this September is that the capitation for schools was cut by a further 1% this year.  This is 4 years in a row that the budget for running schools has been cut.

But the headlines tell us things are great.

We are now at the point where extra supports have been cut wherever the Government thinks they can get away with it.  We have lost language supports for foreign nationals.  Because they are magically better at English now?

And the headlines still tell us things are great.

We have lost supports for students with Special Education Needs.   Think of that.  Those who need the most support – denied it in the name of Austerity.  We have had cutbacks to the National Education Psychological Service. Students who may have an undiagnosed condition may fall through the cracks – because NEPS don’t have the resources to provide enough assessments to schools. Again, it’s those who need the most help are the ones who suffer.  Another support – Guidance Counsellors – has been removed altogether.  Students need as much help as possible to make intelligent subject and college choices.  But Guidance Counsellors do so much more on a personal level with students.  But, with the stroke of a pen they became casualties of the recession.

But we’re told the recession is over.

One of the early cuts was to teacher numbers.  Classes are larger – and by necessity this means that teachers can give less attention to individuals.  All students suffer.

And they have the gall to celebrate the ‘success’ of Austerity.

Teachers have had their pay slashed – and they have been divided.  Anyone who received a contract after 2011 is paid on a different scale.  They are paid less than their equally qualified counterpart who was lucky enough to land a job in 2010 or earlier.

Forgive me if I see little to celebrate in our Government’s performance in Education.

Any successes that have appeared recently are down to the sheer hard work of so many professionals who are exhausting themselves because they love their jobs and they love teaching.  Part of me wonders if the Government knows this and that is why they are not afraid to keep on cutting.

Many teachers are exhausted – and a number have retired early simply because of the level of cuts enforced upon them.

Maybe it’s time to cut back.  The election is coming, and I very much doubt that I will be sending any votes the way of our current Government.

Let’s see them celebrate that.

For any teachers who are feeling burned out – or worried about their own ability to cope – please consider contacting Carecall – where counselling support is available for free

http://www.carecallwellbeing.ie/About-Carecall-Ireland-6894.html

 

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I don’t want to go on strike. I need to go on strike.

Some of our students are very clued in.  On Friday one of my leaving certs approached me with his phone and gave me the news of the upcoming strike.  Good for him.  He’s interested in what’s going on in the world.

And yet he represents one of the many students who I will walk out on, come December 2nd.  He’s a great guy, his classmates are great, and I’m sure this is replicated across the country, and yet here we are.  We, the members of the two secondary school unions have voted for strike.  Here’s the joint statement from the unions.

So.  Why are we going on strike?

There is one core issue.  Assessment.

You see, up until now the Junior Cert has been assessed externally.  This is important because it means that little Johnny from Mayfield is on the same playing field as Alistair from D4.  It’s an incredible logistic feat, but when a student sits a state exam, their paper goes to a different part of the country, and the examiner knows nothing – nothing about that student.  This is a vital part of the integrity of the system.

In his time as Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn wanted to do away with this and replace the Junior Cert with the JCSA and have it assessed in-house.  This was a sea change and, if accepted, open to abuse.  A JCSA certificate from my community school would not carry the same prestige as one from an up-market fee-paying school.

Our new Minister, Jan O’Sullivan has tried to reach a compromise in this.  She has offered 40% internal assessment, with an oversight element.  This is still not good enough.  For a number of reasons:

  1. We have still broken from the principle of external assessment for the exams.  This would still mean teachers marking their own students work.  Who is to say that this isn’t open to abuse or manipulation?  What pressures will be brought to bear on some teachers to bring up the marks of their students?
  2. The syllabus is due to change.  And where are the resources to implement a new syllabus?  Syllabus change and development is necessary.  I think that all teachers accept that we need a revision of the Junior Cert.  In fact, we had agreed to this in 2011, and had a plan in place.  But any change of this magnitude needs proper resources.  Teachers need training, updating in their skills.
  3. Building a project for assessment.  Have you ever tried to get 25 students to complete a project?  It can be… interesting.  There is a balance to be struck between driving the students and spoon-feeding them all the answers.
  4. Time.  When is the marking of this 40% due to happen?  A teacher with 33 class periods in a week is already struggling with time pressures.   If that teacher has students sitting the state exam, then he/she ends up having to correct the work for the state in an unpaid manner.
  5. Where is the educational merit of the decision?  Why does the minister not want to move on the 40% number?  Money.  The less work that is corrected by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), the better.  It saves money.  In it’s original form, the JCSA appeared to be a precursor to phasing out the SEC.

Look at some of what’s been done (in the name of educational reform)

  1. Remove Guidance Counsellors from secondary schools
  2. Increase the pupil/teacher ratio
  3. Cut capitation grants to schools
  4. Again, cut capitation grants to schools (and again for next year)
  5. Reduce supports for students with Special Educational Needs

I’m being a bit long-winded, so back the core issue.  Why are we going on strike?  Because teachers should not assess their own students for a state exam.  Add to that, (speaking for myself) I don’t trust the motivations behind these measures.

So. It’s time to act.  It’s time to let the Minister and her government know that enough is enough.  Education has been attacked long enough.  I don’t want to go on strike, but I need to.

Lets discuss the Teaching Council

I’m conflicted.

The Teaching Council is the body that is charged with overseeing the profession of teaching in Ireland.  So, you would imagine that I would be all in favour of this.  After all, I’m a School Chaplain.  I spend my working days in schools and I witness the professionalism of my colleagues on a daily basis.  I see their hard work, dedication, inspiration.  I should be glad of anything that promotes that professionalism and recognises the hard work of so many teachers.

The Teaching Council is tasked with protecting the integrity of teaching.  It regulates “the teaching profession and promotes professional standards in teaching”.  Why then are so many of us angry with it?

My first taste of disillusionment with the Teaching Council came a few years ago, when the attacks on education (AKA the austerity budgets) were slashing resources and pay across the sector.  Many teachers wrote to the council asking them to speak up on their behalf.  In response we got the response that the council was all for protecting standards, yes.  But had no role in budget discussions.  I never kept a copy of the letter, but I’d love to be able to show it to you.

As the past few years have advanced, the Teaching Council has flexed its muscles more and more.

First, teachers who didn’t pay the €65 per annum registration would not be paid by the Department of Education & Skills.  This became an open threat with this press release stating that over 1,000 teachers could lose their pay.

Then we hear that the council has the power to investigate teachers.  Have our registration fees added up to become a war chest?  On what basis would teachers be investigated?

Most recently, the idea was proposed that teachers would have to engage in CPD in order to maintain their registration.  Admittedly CPD is very, very important.  But when technology changes so fast, and there are so many different ways in which to learn, who decides what is valid CPD, and who certifies it?  My interaction on Monday evenings #edchatie over on the tweet machine is something that is incredibly valuable.  I have learnt a lot by looking at what so, so many other teachers do.

My fears are not new, and they are not unique to me.  Have  a look here and here to see others’ concerns regarding the Teaching Council.

One problem is that many teachers have no faith in the Teaching Council, or see it as irrelevant.  If you do a twitter search for #teaching council you get one screen of results.  One screen for a body that has been in existence since March 2006.

So what is to be done?

  1. Be more flexible in recognising qualifications.  Engineers are good, very good, at maths.  People who qualified as teachers in other countries are teachers.  Don’t make it impossible for them to register here.
  2. Look at the registration fee.  Currently the Teaching Council is running a surplus of millions of Euro.  Use it or don’t charge it.
  3. Provide more courses that people want to engage in (or need to engage in, or would benefit from engaging in)
  4. Talk to the DES about getting course days and subject association days covered for substitution.
  5. Trust teachers.  Allow teachers to work together to create their own CPD.  Online interactions are very fruitful, but difficult to quantify for certification purposes.
  6. Do more to engage with teachers and see what we want for the development of our profession. There is little engagement at the moment.
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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.