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Teachers’ conferences: Too much focus on testing, says union

PRIMARY teachers warned yesterday that an initiative aimed at improving reading and maths put too much emphasis on testing pupils, rather than teaching them.

Education minister Ruairi Quinn rolled out the numeracy and literacy strategy this year, amid concerns about the decline in performance of 15-year-olds here in international reading and maths tests.

Primary schools now have to devote 90 minutes a day to literacy and increase from 36 minutes to 50 the time spent on maths -- at the expense of other subjects.

Schools also have to make greater use of standardised tests of reading and maths among pupils in second and sixth classes and then report the results to the Department of Education.

While schools were already conducting standardised tests and reporting the results to parents, they were not obliged to send this information to the department.


But it has now set targets for the performance of pupils and wants the information so that it can assess the progress of the education system by 2020. It has assured schools that the results will not form the basis of league tables.

However, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) is concerned that the initiative will lead to a shift from a child-centred approach to teaching to an emphasis on tests and results.

With a small number of exceptions, delegates at the union's conference deplored the approach outlined in the new strategy and adopted a motion demanding that the data-driven emphasis on targets and dates be withdrawn.

INTO executive member Bryan O'Reilly said the Government could not demand higher standards while also reducing funding, decreasing supports and cutting teacher numbers.

Another executive member, Mary Magner, said such was the pressure on teachers in the UK to produce evidence of pupil progress that some had admitted falsifying pupils' marks to meet targets.

Irish Independent