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BEO Competition!

January 31, 2012

Win €5,000 worth of computer equipment to help your school run a BEO event and be the school that promotes the best ROCK SHOW in the country!

This year BEO entered a National Innovation competition which allowed them to develop a business plan. This involved developing a website www.beoireland.com to help other schools host similar events and thus the idea of holding a nationwide Comórtas BEO was born. To date BEO have hosted many of Irelands top bands, More Than Conquerors, The Wonder Villains, Dirty 9’s and Scuba Dice to name but a few. What a great experience for any school band to get to perform at a gig where some of these tops bands will be playing.

Every year sees a new pool of talented youth bringing fresh ideas to BEO, coupled with the fact that these new members have the support of veteran BEO members in each of the schools can only see BEO going from strength to strength in the future. The website is a great resource to have for any student thinking of bringing BEO to their school and as mentioned on the site, mentors will be assigned to each school entering the competition. Maybe your school will see the next Jim Aiken emerging.

All details for Comórtas BEO can be found on www.beoireland.com.
The schedule for the competition is as follows:

•    Applications to be received by Feb 3rd via the website.
•    Each school will prepare a 7 min video of their event to be forwarded to BEO by April 23rd.
•    Six finalists will be announced on 27th April. All finalists will receive a grant of €500 to help cover their expenses on the day of the final.
•    The final will be held on May 11th at the Regional Cultural Centre with each school having to present their entry to the judging panel. BEO’s first national champions will be announced at a special gig that evening and where winner will be presented with the amazing prize of €5,000 worth of computer equipment for their school.

BEO would like to take this opportunity to thank Donegal County Council and the VEC for their kind sponsorship, without which running Comórtas BEO would not be possible.
The official launch of Comórtas BEO will take place in the Regional Cultural Centre on Thursday 19th January at 2.00 pm.

Speakers on the day include:

  • Seosamh Mac Ceallabhuí BEO
  • Dessie Larkin Comhairle Contae Dhun na nGall
  • Mary Ann Kane Coiste Gairmoideachas Dun na nGall
  • Hugh Harkin Donegal Live
  • Official launch by Nollaig mac Giolla Bhride Comhairle Contae Dhun na nGall

Bigí linn!

BEO – Flyer

Scoil Santain – Campaign to oppose education cuts gathers pace

January 27, 2012

Photo from the Irish Times

Scoil Santain in Tallaght have been lobbying for some time now to oppose the education cuts that are set to cost their school and many more like it around the country very dearly. Information on their  campaign to date is available at the following links:

http://www.scoilsantain.com/scoil-santain-sa-nuacht.html and http://scoilsantainpag.wordpress.com/.

Statement from the group:

The Scoil Santain Parents (SOS) (Save our Schools) Action Group was set up as a result of Minister Ruairí Quinn’s decision to make cuts to the DEIS Schools in Ireland. If DEIS cuts were implemented, this would have an adverse effect on the positive teaching of our children, and undo all the good work achieved under the DEIS status of our school. This would put immense pressure on the teachers resulting in bigger class sizes, and a heavy financial burden on parents/guardians to make up the short fall in funding to compensate for loss of services to our school.

Although there are signs that our campaign has softened Minister Ruairí Quinn’s stance on these cuts, we need to ensure this is the case. Until we are guaranteed DEIS Status, our campaign must continue. Remember this is our right under our Constitution, not a concession that can be taken away.

Mise le meas,

Gearóid O Conaráin

(Scoil Santain Parents Action Group)

Irish Language Instructors 2012 – 2013 Call for Applications

January 27, 2012

The Ireland Canada University Foundation offers an annual programme of scholarly exchange awards open to all academic disciplines, between the universities of Canada and Ireland. Founded in 1994 by Dr. Craig Dobbin of Newfoundland and Dr. Patrick Hillery, former President of Ireland, the Foundation was formally recognised in a 2004 Memorandum Of Understanding between the governments of Canada and Ireland.
With funding from the National Lottery and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Foundation provides scholarly awards designed to support the teaching of the Irish language in certain Canadian universities. For the nine month period, September 2012- May 2013, ICUF wishes to appoint Irish Language Instructors to each of the following universities :

  • University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, Ontario
  • Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec,
  • St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
  • St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia,
  • St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland
  • University of Ottawa, Ontario

These awards enable teachers to participate in the Irish language instruction programme at a Canadian university, and will also provide individuals with the opportunity to refine their teaching skills and extend their knowledge of Canadian society and culture, enriching their teaching work on their return to Ireland. Further information on the awards, the terms and conditions and application forms are available on www.icuf.ie. For enquiries and further details please email gaeilge@icuf.ie.


Gaeltacht schools bear brunt of cuts

January 27, 2012

Gaeltacht schools will be worst affected by controversial changes to the pupil/teacher ratio announced in the Budget, it has been claimed.

Savage cuts to teacher numbers announced in December mean the minimum number of pupils required for a fourth teacher goes from 81 to 83.

However, in Irish-speaking areas where the minimum was previously 76 pupils, schools now need 83 pupils to qualify for a fourth teacher.

This increases to 86 by 2014 for all schools, meaning the increase in Gaeltacht areas will be 10 pupils compared to five pupils in other areas.

Last night, the organisation representing Gaeltacht schools warned the changes would accelerate the decline of the Irish language.

Chief Executive of Eagraiocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta, Treasa Ni Mhainin, said at least 12 four-teacher Gaeltacht schools will lose a teacher in September.

The organisation predicts that another 30 of the 143 Gaeltacht schools will lose teachers in the next three years.

Aine Ui Loinsigh is the principal of Scoil Eoin Baiste in Lispole, CO Kerry, one of the four teacher Gaeltacht schools that will lose a teacher in September.

In 1999, Gaeltacht schools received a special concession from the then Education Minister Mary Hanafin that lowered the minimum pupil requirement.

Ms Ui  Loinsigh said that just because children live in a Gaeltacht area, it didn’t necessarily mean they were all from Irish-speaking homes.

“When we’re teaching a subject, we have to teach the langauge first.  For example, if I’m teaching science to my sixth class, I’ll have to teach them the terms first in Irish and that’s why this concession was made to Gaeltacht schools,” Ms Ui Loingigh explained.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education was not available for comment last night.


Packed meeting hears fears for future of schools

January 27, 2012

DINGLE’S Pobalscoil Corca Dhuibhne was packed to the rafters on Monday night as hundreds of concerned parents and local residents attended a public meeting called by INTO staff representatives to discuss issues facing the West Kerry Gaeltacht following budgetary proposals to change pupil teacher ratios.

A number of public representatives were present at the meeting including Kerry North TD Deputy Arthur Spring and Senator Marie Moloney (Labour), Independent Kerry South TDS Michael Healy-rae and Tom Mcellistrim,, Cllr Michael Gleeson, Cllr Micheál O’shea (Fianna Fáil) and former Councillor Breandán Macgearailt, North Kerry TD Deputy Martin Ferris and Cllr Toiréasa Ferris (Sinn Féin), Cllr Matt Griffin, Cllr Seamus Cosai Fitzgerald and Kerry South TD Brendan Griffin (Fine Gael).

Chairing the meeting were Principals Seanachán Macgearailt, Seán Ó Catháin and Treasa Ní Mhainnín.

Present also at the meeting were representatives from other primary schools located outside An Gaeltacht including Fybough National School in Keel, who are facing the loss of a teacher if the proposals go ahead. INTO President Jim Higgins also attended.

In addressing the packed auditorium, Scoil an Ghleanna Principal Seanachán Macgearailt, branch secretary of Craobh an Daingin, explained how the majority of primary schools located in the Corca Dhuibhne area will lose a mainstream teacher within the next four years as the recent changes to staffing schedules apply to schools with less than 86 pupils. A reduction in learning support hours is also anticipated and some schools in the region may even face closure or amalgamation.

The meeting heard that the vast majority of two to three teacher schools are located in rural areas, such as Corca Dhuibhne, and many multi-grade classes, consisting of three or four different class groupings, will now be placed in classrooms with 25 – 30 pupils.

Treasa Ní Mhainnín said schools in An Ghaeltacht will face an increase of 10 per cent in pupil/ teacher ratios rather than the two per cent increase proposed nationally, because the pupil concession allocated to Gaeltacht schools is also ceasing under these new proposals.

Speaking at the meeting was Spanish teacher Lucia Atencia who is concerned that funding for the teaching of a foreign language in primary schools will be cut.

“Ireland is the only country in Europe which does not teach a foreign language at primary level – without this, we are at an immediate disadvantage,” she said.

Speaking passionately, former INTO President Jim Higgins called on the TDS present to “stand up for small schools”.

Addressing the attendance as Gaeilge, Cllr Micheal Gleeson spoke of the importance of children and culture in Gaeltacht areas, sympathising with the plight of the teachers and referring to the “high price a child has to pay for the greed of bankers.”

North Kerry Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris slammed the proposed cutbacks adding that it is “difficult to be a TD today, as what’s happening in education at the moment is an absolute disgrace.”

Labour Senator Marie Moloney admitted that “things were bad”, adding that 80 per cent of the education budget goes on teachers’ wages with only 20 per cent spent on services.

North Kerry Labour TD AJ Spring commended the resolute solidarity of those present in their quest to protect Gaeltacht schools and An Ghaeilge. He also said that the inequality being shown to Gaeltacht schools in having to sustain a 10 per cent increase in pupil teacher ratios rather than two per cent, needed to be addressed.

Outlining the issues at stake for schools and the community at large in Gaeltacht areas, former Councillor Breandán Macgearailt said, as Gaeilge, that three elements were crucial to the Gaeltacht’s survival, “teanga beo, daoine a bheith ag obair sa Ghaeltacht agus scoileanna a bheith ann.”

South Kerry Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin also spoke in Irish, drawing attention to the fact that he had scheduled a meeting to specifically discuss the matters concerning primary schools in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht with Taoiseach Enda Kenny today (Wednesday), having also raised the issues facing Corca Dhuibhne in his meeting with Education Minister Ruairi Quinn last week.

He outlined details of alternative cost-saving measures tabled by Fine Gael’s Education Committee at a recent parliamentary party meeting which could challenge the need to implement the current budgetary proposals. The Deputy also raised the dilemma facing Scoil Naisiúnta an Chlocháin which has no other Gaeltacht school within reasonable proximity if faced with amalgamation.

Issues raised at the gathering are set to be highlighted at meeting, scheduled by four Labour and four Fine Gael representatives, with the Minister for Education this Thursday.


Children who are too busy perform poorly at school

January 27, 2012

WELL-INTENTIONED parents can keep their children so busy on organised activities it damages their school performance.

It means the ‘hurried child’ can end up with the lowest scores for reading and maths, according to a report on how recreation can influence educational achievement.

It is the latest research from the ongoing ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ survey of nine-year-olds, by the Economic and Social Research Institute and Trinity College.

But the old adage of education beginning at home is also proved.

The government-funded study places 8,500 children into five distinct groups based on how they spend their time when not in school — and other factors such as social class and where they live.

The children sat tests in reading and maths from the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, Dublin, and some wide variations in performance were thrown up.

The study found higher scores were achieved by kids active in cultural activities, such as music and drama, and living in areas where it is safe to play outside.

Poor scores were found among those who mainly engaged in unstructured activities, such as vegging out in front of the TV, and those who do not use — or have access to — computers and other such technology.

Children using technology in school are more likely to use it outside, but the report highlights a significant divide. Kids with greater access to computers included those in private schools, designated disadvantaged schools, Gaeltacht schools and urban areas.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said yesterday literacy begins at home and parents and grandparents have a role to play.

“The classroom cannot solve everything,” he said.

Mr Quinn said television had become an “electronic baby-minder” and active involvement by parents was required.

The biggest group in the study, 25pc, are very involved in cultural activities, such as club participation and reading. These, along with what are described as the social networkers (18pc), have the highest scores in reading and maths.

Social networkers are distinguished by their frequent use of computers, especially for keeping in touch with friends, while also being involved in cultural activities and sports. Children from more advantaged families are most likely to fall into these categories.

Next on the performance ladder are the 20pc who play sports and computer games more than others, and spend less time on other activities.

Those with the lowest scores in reading and maths are the 23pc who spend most of their spare time watching television or with friends, and those with ‘busy lives’ who are taking on too much.

While there is a link between involvement in organised activities and better results, the study found that too much cancels out some of the educational benefits.
This was identified in the 15pc with ‘busy lives’, the so-called ‘hurried child’.

Gender differences are highlighted with girls more likely to be involved in cultural activities and to use social media. Boys are more involved in playing sports and computer games.

Urban children are more likely to fall into the social networkers and busy lives groups, and children attending gaelscoileanna are strongly engaged in cultural activities and least likely to fit into the TV/sports group.

One of the report’s authors, Prof Emer Smyth of the ESRI said children from more disadvantaged backgrounds may lose out academically if they didn’t have access to the same kinds of organised activities as their more middle-class peers.

Among the measures called for in the report — carried out in 2007/’08 — are subsidies for children’s recreation, and access to safe play areas within neighbourhoods.


Ceol’s Comhrá the Castlebar based Club Óige is back

January 27, 2012

Ceol’s Comhrá is a group aimed at secondary school students offering them an opportunity to use whatever Irish they may have while trying out different activities.

This year Ceol’s Comhrá will be behind the camera, getting involved in every stage of film making.

The group will meet up every Monday from 6pm to 7.30pm in the Neighbourhood Youth Project in Castlebar.

There is a €5 registration fee, and a €2 attendance fee per week. This project is funded by Foras na Gaeilge.


Too many activities after school erode overall benefit

January 27, 2012

PUSHY PARENTS who overload their children with after-school activities may not be helping them as much as they believe, according to the latest findings from the Growing Up in Ireland study.

The national longitudinal study found that children who did cultural activities such as music, drama and dance, and read for pleasure were likely to score well on reading and maths tests. However, being involved in too many activities cancelled out some of the educational benefits.

At the other end of the spectrum, children who spent most of their spare time in unstructured activities such as watching television fared worst in the tests.

Growing Up in Ireland – Influences on 9-Year-Olds’ Learning: Home, School and Community involved interviews with 8,568 nine-year-old children, as well as interviews with their parents, teachers and principals, in 2007/2008.

The researchers found that children divided into five groups. The cultural activities group accounted for 25 per cent of children and included those who did after-school activities such as music, drama and dance, and read for pleasure.

The sports and computer games group accounted for 20 per cent of those surveyed, while the social networkers group (18 per cent) identified children who used computers a lot.

The busy lives group (15 per cent) included children who did a very wide range of after-school activities. The final group, the television and sports group (23 per cent) identified children who spent spare time watching television and doing things that were not structured. They seldom used computers.

Not surprisingly, it found that boys were more likely to fall into the sports and computer games group while girls were more likely to be in the cultural activities group.

Children from privileged backgrounds tended to be involved in social networking and cultural activities and were also more likely to fall into the “busy lives” group.

Those who took part in cultural activities and social networking had higher levels of reading and maths performance than other groups. But, taking account of social background, there was no difference between the performance of the “busy lives” group and the group of children who spent most of their time watching television and playing sports.

The “hurried child” phenomenon was highlighted by Dr Emer Smyth who co-authored the report with Dr Selina McCoy and Amanda Quail. Dr Smyth said these busy children were spread very thinly across so many areas in their spare time that they were not feeling the academic benefit. Literacy, in particular, was being squeezed out, and also maths to a lesser extent.

She also highlighted the fact that Gaelscoileanna students were more likely to be involved in cultural activities and less likely to spend their spare time watching television.

She said schools in Gaeltacht areas did not have the same profile, which seemed to suggest that it was not connected with the Irish language culture.

The study also found that children from immigrant families were more likely to fall into the social networker category while children with learning disabilities were most likely to fit into the television and sports group.

Urban children were more likely to be social networkers than rural children, while children in one-parent families tended to fall into the television and sports group.

The children interviewed for this study are now 13 years old, and are taking part in follow-up interviews as part of the national study.


Líonra Réigiúnach Gaelscoileanna Teo. ar Glór Anoir, Raidió na Gaeltachta

January 26, 2012

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

Some small rural schools are being put in immediate jeopardy by staffing cuts

January 26, 2012

AS A Fine Gael Senator and former education spokeswoman, I have a request for Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn.

I am respectfully asking him to review his position on small rural schools.

From a total of 1,000 small schools the Minister in 2012/13 is seeking to find 100 teaching posts by increasing teacher retention numbers based on last September’s enrolment. This puts some small rural schools in immediate jeopardy.

I formerly worked as a primary teacher in a four-teacher rural school, and latterly as a lecturer in teacher education, and have just visited seven small rural Gaeltacht schools in Connemara.

At the early stage in my career I taught for nine years in Newcastle NS, near Athenry, a homely school embedded in the community. Like the schools I visited in Connemara, it was the centre of the rural community, and through its connectedness with that I came to know parents, to understand their way of life, and to really know the children. I was a better teacher for it. It was there I formed many of the philosophies that informed my understanding of how children learn best and to shape my later practice in teacher education.

Because the numbers fell in that primary school, as the last teacher in, I was subsequently redeployed to a large school in an urban area. This left the rural school with only three teachers to cope with almost the same number of children. Not easy given the complexity of the mix of classes, ages and ability levels.

This is the scenario now faced by An Tuairín NS in Béal an Daingin (Connemara) next September. Only in this case it is a sudden adjustment and without adequate notice.

According to September 2011 figures it needed 76 pupils to retain its four class teachers. With 78 on the roll all was fine until new retention numbers were announced in the budget which now require it to have had 81 pupils on that date.

Now An Tuairín’s pupil teacher ratio (PTR) will be above the national average (around 80 pupils for three teachers). To make matters worse, what will make Tuairín NS a complex teaching situation is the number of class levels, ability levels, and some split classes that will exist in its three classrooms. Classrooms that are now too small for the new reality.

Lest one think otherwise, I am a fan of multi-class settings for better pupil outcomes. Evidence shows that younger pupils learn from older peers, and older pupils gain cognitively by going into “teacher mode” with their younger peers. But there comes a tipping point when the class mix is just too close to be advantageous to the children. Tuairín NS is at this point.

Similarly, a situation envisaged by 2014 whereby a one-teacher school would have 19 pupils across eight classes, spanning four-to-12-year-olds, is mind- boggling.

In any single class, children’s abilities fall into high, middle and low categories. You can have a further two levels of special needs at either end of the spectrum – developmentally slow and gifted. What makes the multi-class situation complex in the small rural school is these ability levels exist in multiples, depending on the number of classes in the room, and are exacerbated further with the loss of a teacher.

Add in social disadvantage in a rural community where in some Connemara schools I visited up to 80 per cent of parents are unemployed – thus the classification “Rural Deis”.

Be assured this scenario is as educationally challenging, if not more, than any Urban Deis school. Yet, why have only the urban Deis schools earned a review from the Minister?

Rural Deis small schools are equally deserving of a review.

There are other changes coming too in relation to learning support and resource teaching hours that will undermine good local practice.Three schools I visited in

Lettermore, Leitir Caladh and Tír an Fhia share the same learning support and resource teacher.

Parents and schools with children with autism and cerebral palsy, among other learning difficulties, reported very high levels of satisfaction with her work. Under new arrangements this will become the work of two teachers and is actually likely to cost the State more.

I have said little about the effect of the loss of a teacher and the gradual erosion of a school on a small rural community. Education aside, this is arguably the biggest effect of all. In my experience, the loss of a teacher is felt far more deeply in a rural community than in an urban community.

Minister, I am asking you to rethink your position on small rural schools. There are other ways to find savings. For example, an increase to the PTR of 0.6 across all schools would give you more posts than needed by 2014. When we are well off again as a nation in 10 or 15 years, let’s not regret that we have a rural Ireland without young people. Let that choice be theirs.

In communities where amalgamation may be preferable, let us ask communities to come up with a local solution over a four-year period, This will give them time to plan their futures.

Fidelma Healy Eames is a Fine Gael Senator


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