THE increasing availability of technological aids in mobile phones and music players is having a detrimental effect on teenagers' language and maths skills.
School managers claim the increasing use of mobile phone texting, for example, is eroding standards of spelling and punctuation. In addition, the widespread availability of electronic calculators in phones, watches, music players and computers is eroding students' abilities in the most basic mathematical functions.
"Television and other technology-based entertainment are shortening everyone's attention span," the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents 400 secondary schools, said.
In a submission to the Department of Education the JMB said the technology-driven culture of young people presents serious challenges to language and maths teachers.
It is fingered as one reason for the sharp decline in reading and maths standards reported in an international OECD study last year. The department has published a plan to improve literacy and numeracy, but the managers criticised the impression given that this was being undertaken to challenge an 'underperforming' workforce.
"If this perception is not actively and immediately refuted by the Minister, the Chief Inspector and Government in general, failure to achieve even the most fundamental reform is guaranteed," it warned.
The managers called for well- stocked and attractive libraries in all schools and greater emphasis on the use of information and communications technologies to improve literacy and numeracy.
Their submission pointed out that cuts were taking place at a time when more investment was needed. English as an additional language provision had been reduced, special needs assistant numbers had been capped and the recruitment of educational psychologists had been halted.
It welcomed proposals to improve professional development and practice among teachers. But, it warned of the potential for demoralisation in the prevailing atmosphere where public servants had received little by way of affirmation or public support from their political masters.
"If we are to continue to attract the 'brightest and best' to the profession, it is essential that teachers are supported and affirmed by both the institutions of state and the community at large," it added.