Sunday 20 October 2019

Education Minister to slow pace of Bruton's reforms in schools

New Education Minister Joe McHugh
New Education Minister Joe McHugh
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Newly appointed Education Minister Joe McHugh has promised to slow down the pace of change expected in schools, after warnings of "initiative overload".

He said he was "hearing loud and clear" that people needed to have "freedom and time" to implement changes already rolled out.

Mr McHugh acknowledged the work done by his predecessor Richard Bruton, who set out an Action Plan for Education.

He said it was not his intention to stop the action plan, because he believed in the strategy, but "to take stock of where we are, what is working, what is not working and how we can fit it into three years".

The new minister's words were well received by the more than 500 delegates attending the annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).

NAPD president Mary Keane earlier warned that they were "feeling the grievous burden of initiative overload and deadline mania" and referred to the new-style junior cycle, which required new approaches to teaching and learning as well as practical changes.

Ms Keane said the "biggest crisis" for their schools was a teacher shortage and Mr McHugh said he wanted to explore innovative ways of encouraging Irish teachers working in places like the United Arab Emirates to return home,

Mr McHugh pointed out there were thousands of Irish teachers in the UAE - he was once on of them - and he knew from a previous role as minister for the diaspora that many of them wanted to return home.

Later, he suggested Skype interviews as a way of making the recruitment process easier. But Garrett O'Dowd of the Teach and Explore agency said the UAE was one place where Skype calls were blocked.

Mr McHugh said "there are many innovative ways of reaching out to the diaspora" and the State had a role, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to "facilitate people in a better way".

The NAPD conference was Mr McHugh's first opportunity in his new role to speak directly to those at the coalface of the education system.

Irish Independent

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