Sunday 22 April 2018

Pupils failed by teachers as much as by flawed system

Our educators will be one of the strongest forces opposing Ruairi Quinn's best efforts at change, writes Emer O'Kelly

RUAIRI Quinn played a blinder at the three teachers' annual conferences last week. It helps when you're articulate, of course. It also helps when you're visibly passionate about education, and our new Minister for Education is clearly both. But he only said one thing as fact: the cuts will not be reversed; in all probability they will be deepened, because three into two won't go: we're a bankrupt nation with nothing in the kitty.

The rest was magnificent rhetoric . . . or, depending on your point of view, a lot of feel-good waffle. But the minister didn't have much choice. He was addressing three sets of people who are seriously demoralised for many good and solid reasons, and he was clearly aiming to get them back on side. If he succeeded (but there is no proof that he has) it will make life a good deal easier when he attempts to put into operation his plans for an inclusive, non-partisan education system which will begin building our current system at least to adequacy in international terms.

And therein lies the problem. Mr Quinn told the teachers they were wonderful: specifically, in his closing remarks to the secondary teachers' union, he said, "You do a magnificent job. You are frequently ignored. You are frequently undermined . . . but not by me." The men and women listening to him must have felt gratified.

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