Teachers have became surrogate childminders
Economic pressure and the lack of affordable childcare is leading schools and teachers to act, in some cases, as surrogate child minders. In a thought-provoking address to primary school teachers, Brendan McCabe, the president of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN), dealt with the topic of the 'school readiness' of some children, basically the age at which children are sent to school.
After speaking about the complex needs of pupils he addressed this hot topic, coming to the conclusion that in some cases teachers are acting as child minders.
"What is debatable though is the question of school readiness," he said. "Some children are being sent to school too young, or more correctly, before they are sufficiently mature."
This is a very valid point, and concerns have been expressed by educationalists that children who go into the system too early do not do as well as those who enter at a more mature age.
Mr McCabe identified the lack of affordable childcare and the economic pressures on families which ensure that many parents have to work and have little choice but to send their children to school, ready or not.
Teachers will tell you that they encounter four and five-year-old's attending school who are unable to put on their coats, open their lunch boxes or drink cartons. Some are not even properly toilet-trained.
While one has sympathy with hard-pressed parents who need to get back into the workforce, there is a real need for a proper debate on this issue.
Is it appropriate for four-year-olds to be going to national school or should we be adopting a more Scandinavian model and send our children to school at a later age? And what supports are necessary to implement such a policy?
It is not appropriate for teachers to act as child-minders in the literal sense and neither is it good enough for children to be sent to school before they are ready.