Editorial: School policy changes must be applied equally
With the level of cuts to the education system in recent years, it was inevitable that some things would give. There have always been examples of schools that, for one reason or another, did not deliver the stipulated 28 hours a week instruction time to students, but the Department of Education and Skills has now acknowledged that the reduction in resources in recent years has been an added challenge for schools in meeting the standard.
Not only have schools lost teachers, but the cuts have come at a time when enrolments are rising, and will continue to do so for about a decade. Meanwhile, schools are under pressure to offer a wide choice of subjects and the upcoming reform of the Junior Certificate will only add to the range of possible study options.
The planned detailed analysis by the department of the practice in relation to the provision of instruction time across schools of different types and sizes is welcome.
The findings will be of interest because they will tell us why some schools are not adhering to the rules. We need to know how much of a role the cuts have played and whether there are any other reasons why an individual school is coming up short.
Whatever the department's research turns up, it is essential that any changes in policy or, indeed, enforcement of existing policy, have as their focus the best interests of students -- all students.
There is nothing wrong with the existing policy requiring all schools to deliver a minimum amount of instruction time to all pupils. It is an equitable starting point, and, if more holes have appeared in the system because resources have been cut, an obvious solution would be to restore the resources.
It may well be that taking account of the circumstances of individual schools and allowing them a certain flexibility in relation to instruction time, would be a desirable outcome. But if there is to be change, it cannot result in an uneven patchwork based on joining up the holes.
The State has a responsibility to deliver equal treatment to all students, in all schools.