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Government failing children as schools ‘starved of resources’

September 25, 2013

The government is starving schools of resources, implementing cuts “by stealth” and depriving this generation of “cutback kids” of an adequate education, the organisation representing managers of almost 400 secondary schools said today.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and the government are failing to prioritise the young, the vulnerable and the nation’s future in their allocation of resources, it added.
In a pre-budget submission, the Joint Managerial Body representing managers of Catholic and Protestant secondary schools said hard-pressed schools are “at breaking point” and can take no more cuts to frontline services.

“The Budget must prioritise and protect frontline services,” JMB General Secretary Ferdia Kelly said, urging the government to recapture the vision of Donogh O’Malley, the Minister for Education who announced free post-primary education in 1967.

Mr Kelly said schools have lost guidance counsellors and suffered cuts in the numbers of language and special needs teachers as well as year heads and other supports.
The 2011 programme for government declared education was at the heart of sustainable economic growth and said it would prioritise frontline services but that hadn’t happened, he said.

“The government is spinning to the public that things are still the same but they are not,” he said. There had been a decrease “by stealth” of almost one percent in the pupil teacher ratio, class sizes were at a maximum and subjects were being dropped from senior cycle.

Michael Redmond, JMB research and development officer, said this generation has suffered education cuts worse than any in the State’s history. Every other generation had a better education experience than their parents but not this generation who will be known as the “cutback kids”, he said.

The submissions said services to students in need including travellers were being eroded, capitation grants had been cut by 11 per cent and the moratorium on appointment of posts of responsibility in schools was forcing principals to take on the tasks of key posts such as year heads and special needs organisers with consequent impact on the principals’ ability to fulfil their own responsibilities.

The “catastrophic” cuts in guidance counselling particularly exposed the lack of vision as a lot of counselling work was about stopping problems at source, it said.

Immediate restoration of guidance provision was a “no brainer”as the axing of this service affected the most vulnerable and it made no sense to have government educational policy add to the problem of high youth unemployment.


Afterschool Chat Group for Teenagers

September 25, 2013

This is a weekly chat group for teenagers in first and second year of secondary school … homework will serve as a guide to the sessions but talking, listening and hearing Irish spoken is to be the main focus … for €2 per week, from Wed., 2 Oct., 16:15 – 17:15.

The group meets in the only centre in East Galway for Irish, Gaeilge Locha Riach, 3 Old Galway Road, Loughrea. Tea and coffee is provided for parents while they wait.

Info: 091-870718 / oifig@lochariach.com

Oifigeach Forbartha Náisiúnta á lorg ag Ógras

September 24, 2013

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

Coláiste Chamuis celebrating 40 Years

September 24, 2013

Established in 1973, Coláiste Chamuis has gone from strength to strength ever since.

To celebrate 40 successful years, Coláiste Chamuis will host a celebratory dinner and evening of entertainment in The Connemara Coast Hotel on Saturday 28 September. Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, T.D., will attend as a guest of honour, along with host families who have kept students over the years, present and past staff and students of Coláiste Chamuis and many other friends of the college.

Coláiste Chamuis first opened its doors in 1973, with 52 students, 2 teachers and 10 households who kept the students. 37 of that group returned the following year and Coláiste Chamuis was under way. Numbers increased steadily until 1978 when a second course was added. In 1985 a second centre was opened at An Tulach, and again due to increased demand, a third centre was opened in 1992 at Ros a’Mhíl. A purpose-built centre, Teálta na hÓige, was opened in Ros a’Mhíl in 2003.

Coláiste Chamuis caters each summer for some 1,500 students from all around the country. Recently, the college has provided a new Easter course for student teachers. Many past pupils of Coláiste Chamuis are still actively involved in activities involving Irish, such as education, journalism, arts, entertainment and heritage, law and business.

Students of the college have come to appreciate the motto of 40 years, ‘Is fiú agus is féidir’ (You can—and it is worth it). The Coláiste Chamuis experience is also beneficial for local Gaeltacht teenagers, some of whom work with the college during courses, as they come to appreciate their own language by seeing others wish to learn it.

Coláiste Chamuis employs some 70 staff during courses. Irish colleges have a significant economic effect on the Connemara Gaeltacht with the sector generating economic activity valued at €50M each year.

Manager of Coláiste Chamuis, Máire Denvir contends: “In the context of tourism, Irish colleges represent cultural tourism par excellence, as economic development goes hand in hand with positive language planning policies, and the Coláistí are based on the most important natural resource in the Gaeltacht — the Irish language”.


Poist i nGaelscoil na gCrann, An Ómaigh

September 24, 2013

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

How do you divide 37 pupils into an official average of 28?

September 24, 2013

Years ago in Ireland the classroom was organised along military lines: children in tight rows facing the blackboard with little scope for movement or interaction. It was a mixture of educational philosophy and practical necessity, as classrooms of 40 or more could hardly be organised any other way.
Since then, educational philosophy has changed and the importance of good teacher-child ratios is seen as crucial to the quality of education. The Irish primary curriculum emphasises group work, circle time, movement, experimentation and learning-by-doing. Shortly before the economic collapse and the first austerity budgets, the then education minister Batt O’Keeffe pronounced the ideal class size as 20 or less. At that time, between 20 per cent and a quarter of Irish classrooms had 30 students or more.
The official figure is now 28 to one, up from 27 since the last budget. Ireland currently has the second-highest pupil-teacher ratio in the EU. To establish the ratio of 28 to one, the overall number of pupils is divided by the overall number of staff, principal included. Many schools, however, have classes with significantly more than 30 pupils.Urban and commuter-belt schools are having particular difficulty making the ratios work.
This year, at Scoil Naomh Feichín in Co Louth, one classroom has 37 pupils. Four out of eight classes in the school are topping 30 pupils, including the junior infants class, which this year has 32 pupils aged between four and six.
Margaret Hurley teaches the new junior infants alone, with no SNA or classroom assistant to support her. She says having such a large class has had a huge effect on the way she teaches.
“With such large numbers you have to revert to a more traditional style of teaching, standing at the front of the class and engaging in whole-class teaching. The activity-based methods of the revised curriculum are just not possible with such a large number of young children. Even something as simple as a painting lesson is a mammoth task. Small-group work is virtually impossible,” she says.
Junior infants usually come from preschool environments, where the ratios are far lower. Something as simple as helping pupils open new lunchboxes or fasten new coats can be very time consuming in a class of 32, says Hurley.
“The Department of Education and Science has introduced Aistear, which is a new framework for the infant classroom. It involves the children learning through guided play in different activity areas in the classroom. I don’t have any space to set up these areas in my classroom as I’m tripping over someone every time I turn around.
“The area of the curriculum that will suffer most is literacy. I simply won’t have the time to check that the children are mastering their letter sounds and to hear them read. I’m sure this will result in less successful outcomes for the children,” she says.
Bryan Collins is principal of Scoil Naomh Feichín. Officially, he is an administrative principal but he has gone back to teaching smaller groups to try and offset the overcrowding issue.
“It’s very difficult. If I miss a call from one of the State bodies relating to a pupil, I may not be able to get hold of that official again for days or weeks. The paperwork is piling up.”
His greatest concern, though, is for the pupils. He believes the entire spirit of the primary curriculum is being undermined as schools are forced to return to the old chalk-and-talk method of teaching large groups.
“Scoil Naomh Feichín is just one of many schools that have to deal with the problem of large class size. Many primary schools in the Louth and east Meath area are in exactly the same position. I would say from my discussion with other principals in the area that we are looking at about half of all schools dealing with classes of more than 30 this year. This area of the country has a young population and it’s in the commuter belt. If houses start to sellagain, pupil numbers will go up even more.
“The main reason our school is coping at the moment, despite the cuts to date, is due to the dedication and hard work of the teaching and ancillary staff. We are fortunate to have a young, energetic staff who do a tremendous job.”
The problem is that while headline figures of 28 to one may not sound extreme, in reality it means that if a school is shy even one pupil it can lose an entire teacher. This leaves schools with full classes that have to be redistributed throughout the school. If the number of pupils at any particular level is higher than 28, the principal is left in a tough position. There is little flexibility in a system that is supposed to be designed around human beings.
According to the INTO, the actual average, nationwide, is 26. This reflects extremes within the system that mean some small rural schools may have fewer than 10 children in a class, with mixed age groups taught together, while urban and commuter-belt schools such as Scoil Naomh Feichín are handling much larger numbers.
Collins is afraid of what might happen in next month’s budget. He says that any more increases in the staffing schedule will be extremely difficult to manage, dedicated staff notwithstanding.
Sinéad Maguire is teaching 37 third-class pupils at Scoil Naomh Feichín this year. She says that she is just about managing because there are no significant behavioural or learning difficulties in the mix; a highly unusual scenario. Nonetheless, she feels the students are being shortchanged.
“This is the biggest class I’ve ever had to teach. In a smaller class, I would use constructivist approaches, emphasising the importance of using ‘hands-on’ activities and peer learning. Now whole-class teaching is the main approach used in many subject areas because of the constraints of the classroom size and pupil numbers.”
At a practical level, 37 pupils in a prefab is problematic, she says.
“The noise level is an issue, especially in the prefab where every noise is amplified. I would usually have groups of four children at a desk but due to the large numbers this year I’ve had to change the classroom desk arrangement into rows to make cooperative work easier and to reduce the noise level. I hand out books and other materials during my break now when the classroom is empty, because it’s too noisy and disruptive to do it during class time.”
Collins is chilled to hear growing media speculation about further increases in class size coming down the line.
“Within the four walls of the classroom the best teacher in the world cannot give adequate attention to these kinds of numbers,” he says. “There are rules about ratios of adults to children every time a group leaves the school, but when it comes to the classroom those rules go out the window. We can’t take any more increases; it just won’t work.”


Mórphlean gníomhaíochta na Ceathrún Gaeltachta seolta

September 24, 2013

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

Minister Quinn launches public consultation on inclusiveness in primary schools

September 23, 2013

Historic initiative to consult directly with parents about how all children can be made to feel included and involved in their local primary school

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D, and the CEO of the National Parents Council Primary, Áine Lynch, joined forces today to launch a public consultation on promoting inclusiveness in primary schools, which includes an information leaflet specifically for parents.

The public consultation process is part of the Minister’s Action Plan in response to the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.

As well as dealing with the divesting of patronage of certain schools by the Catholic Church, the Group made a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that schools, particularly Stand Alone schools which cater to entire communities, are as inclusive as possible and accommodate students of various belief systems and traditions. The recommendations cover areas such as having equitable enrolment policies; dealing effectively with the Constitutional right to opt out of religious instruction; having school policies on the conduct of religious and cultural celebrations in schools as well as having Boards of Management of denominational schools reflect the diversity of the local community.

Launching the consultation process, Minister Quinn said “Schools should be welcoming places for all children from the local community. We all know that Irish society has changed a lot in recent years. Our education system needs to adapt, to make sure that, as well as continuing to cater for children with more traditional religious beliefs, there is also respect for children of different traditions and beliefs.

“I want to thank Áine Lynch and her colleagues in the National Parents Council Primary for working with my Department on preparing the information leaflet for parents, and for agreeing to circulate the leaflet to parents’ associations nationwide.”

The Minister urged parents and other interested parties to make submissions.

“This is your chance to have your say and share your views with us”, he said. “I strongly encourage parents, teachers and all those with an interest in this area to take this opportunity. Many schools are already doing a good job in catering for children from different cultural, religious and belief traditions. I also want to hear about these good practices.”
Aine Lynch also urged parents to engage in the consultation process, stating that the education system in Ireland must ensure that all children’s and families beliefs are respected and valued.
“Parents and children have a unique contribution to make to this consultation process by outlining their experiences both positive and negative and to make proposals for the education system they would like to experience into the future”, she said.
The deadline for receipt of submissions is 22 November 2013.

Following the consultation process, the Forum Report findings and recommendations in this area and the submissions received will be considered in drafting a White Paper as set out in the Programme for Government.

For further information please contact:
Siobhán Creaton 087 941 6286
Sarah Moroney 087 772 0570

Minister Quinn published the Forum Advisory Group report in April 2012 and announced his action plan in response to this report in June 2012. The report and further details are available on the Department’s website www.education.ie.

Clubanna Óige Cumann na bhFiann

September 23, 2013

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

UCC president celebrates links to gaelscoil

September 23, 2013

A university president went back to primary school for a day to mark the 20th anniversary of his college’s unique link to a gaelscoil.

Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin in Ballincollig, Co Cork, was founded in 1983 in Coolroe, close to the former home of poet Seán Ó Ríordáin — for whom the school is named. A poet and essayist, Ó Riordáin, who was one of the most important Irish language poets of the 20th century, also worked in UCC’s department of modern Irish and was one of its resident poets in the 1970s until his death in 1977.

Here’s a beautiful poem about horses by Irish poet Seán Ó Riordáin. This is the translated version – Switch – http://t.co/On97Qj1f — Neil Burns (@foreverantrim) January 15, 2013 His university colleagues established a scholarship in his name, sponsored by UCC’s Bord na Gaeilge, which has, since 1993, been awarded to one sixth-class pupil in Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin who has most promoted the Irish language in the school. The scholarship helps to fund the student’s three-week stay in the Corca Dhuibhne gaeltacht. The award is normally presented by the UCC president during a ceremony in the college. However, Pól Ruiséal, director of UCC’s Ionad na Gaeilge Labharta, said Dr Murphy has been anxious for some time to visit the 566-pupil gaelscoil to meet pupils, the principal Gabriel Ó Cathasaigh, and his staff.

And as the school marks its 30th anniversary, he said felt this was the right time. “We, in a sense, in the Ionad, are the gaelscoil of UCC,” said Mr Ruiséal. “What we have here is a unique partnership between a third-level gaelscoil and a primary gaelscoil, who have come together to do something very useful and very promotional of the Irish language.” He also said that UCC has seen a huge rise in recent years in the numbers of overseas students who have been attracted to the university to study the Irish language and culture. “We have in the region of 350 overseas students from the seven continents who arrive here without a word of Irish,” he said. “They’ve heard of U2… the Wolfe Tones, and know something of Ireland. They learn about the music and culture and then realise there is something behind this — the punch that the Irish language culture makes.”


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