| 17.9°C Dublin

Editorial: Schools need resources if reform is to work

Close

The shocking finding has emerged after Department of Education-backed study among third class pupils in 22 primary schools, during the 2013/14 academic year.

The shocking finding has emerged after Department of Education-backed study among third class pupils in 22 primary schools, during the 2013/14 academic year.

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan

/

The shocking finding has emerged after Department of Education-backed study among third class pupils in 22 primary schools, during the 2013/14 academic year.

Parents generally have a high degree of trust in the Irish education system. And so they should. Teaching in Ireland is noted for the high calibre of professionals that it attracts.

But the system faces ongoing challenges to ensure that it is meeting the needs of those it serves. An Economic and Social Research Institute study found that too many students are either switching off or are highly stressed by a system that rewards those who memorise and regurgitate banks of information, over a couple of weeks in June, whether they understand the information or not.

For years, third-level colleges and employers have expressed concerns about rote learning and school leavers being unable to think critically.

The Junior Certificate reforms were drafted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to shape a different experience for Irish students, taking account of best international practice.

A shift away from reliance on traditional exams, with teachers taking over some of the assessment of their own pupils - and supporting better learning in the process - was regarded as key.

The reforms have been well received where they have been trialled. The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), which has members working with post-primary age students in special schools, is co-operating with the changes.

Their second-level teaching colleagues don't agree. Today, second-level schools are closed due to a strike by 27,000 teachers, because their unions, the TUI and ASTI, say assessing their own students - for even 40pc of the marks - will compromise standards. Most educational experts, including school managers and principals, disagree with them.

There is no doubt that schools need proper resources, including teachers who are well trained in assessment, if the reforms are to work.

It is up to the Education Minister, Jan O'Sullivan, to listen to what schools say they require, and to ensure that the necessary resources are provided.

Similarly, teaching unions need to listen to the advocates of reform.

Another tragic reminder of farm safety risks

LAST September Johnny Ryan beamed with pride when his son Lester, captain of the Kilkenny hurling team, lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup.

Yesterday the GAA world was plunged into deep sorrow with the news of his death in a farming accident.

He has become the latest tragic statistic in a grim toll that has now reached 31 in the span of a single year.

The agricultural community has been rocked to its core by these heart-rending and needless deaths.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has a difficult job to do, but it is being made even more so by ill-conceived cost cutting measures as we reported yesterday.

Rural Ireland needs all the support it can get. The dangers farmers are exposed to are unique and therefore safety checks and constant monitoring are literally a matter of life and death.

At a time when incomes are under pressure and the need to work harder and longer has been highlighted, we learn that budget cuts are driving reductions in HSA staff levels.

How many more harrowing stories must we read before resources sufficient to the scale of the risk are committed to farm safety?

Irish Independent