Sunday 22 September 2019

'Support your children, but don't smother them'

'A balanced education' Brian Crossan, the principal of Gort Community School in Co Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure
'A balanced education' Brian Crossan, the principal of Gort Community School in Co Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure

Brian Crossan

When it comes to education, parents should get the right balance. Give your son or daughter support, but do not smother them.

They should be given room to develop. Sometimes you have to let them make mistakes, because that is part of life.

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Parents are now seen as very important stakeholders in the education of a child. I believe the support of parents helps to create an effective school.

Sometimes parents can be wary of the school environment, because they might have had a bad experience themselves.

But schools are now much more pastoral in their approach and have structures in place to support students.

The curriculum has also changed a lot, particularly in the Junior cycle. There is a lot of group work and projects.

Students may have to stand up in front of the class and do presentations. In this way, they improve their communications skills.

The most important settling-in period for a student is when they are going from primary to secondary school.

At our school, we have an induction programme and we try to ease the transition by being a little more flexible with first-year students.

At the start we let them out of classes earlier so that they can get used to their lockers, get to the canteen, and arrive at the school buses first.

At this time, parents can support their children by making sure that they have the right books and uniform. They should also be encouraged to enjoy the rest of the summer. You do not have to over-analyse the change they are about to make.

Some students may be anxious, and that is normal. It is how you manage anxiety that is important.

Parents should ensure that students have a proper environment in which to do their homework. They should have a desk in a quiet area without a television on.

You should check in on their homework, and also check any communications from the school.

If a student is having a problem with a subject, you should make an appointment to meet the subject teacher through the school office.

Do not let it become a greater problem by not addressing it. Sometimes it can be a small thing that has a big impact on a student.

The students should have a structure where they come home every day, maybe have something to eat, and do their homework at a certain time.

In our school we don't allow first, second and third-year students to have phones in school at all - and that has been a great success. Students used to walk around looking at their phones. Now they are walking around and chatting with each other.

My advice to parents is that all phones should be put on the kitchen table by 9pm, and devices should only be accessed in communal areas.

If they are accessed in a bedroom late at night, it can lead to trouble. Would you invite a bully into the bedroom?

It is important to have a balanced, holistic education. It's great to achieve good exam results and achieve high points in the Leaving Cert, but students also need to acquire the skills and coping mechanisms to deal with difficulties.

Extra-curricular activities are very important, and students should be encouraged to try something new in school. It could be debating, taking part in a musical, photography or a sport.

A balanced education means building up friendships and being part of a team. Those kinds of skills will stand to you for life.

Brian Crossan, Principal of Gort Community School

In conversation with Kim Bielenberg

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