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Failure to realise the education vision of 1916 leaders 28/03/16

INTO president slams failure to realise the education vision of 1916 leaders

Monday, 28 March 2016

Press Release
Emma Dineen
Irish National Teachers’ Organisation

INTO president slams failure to realise the education vision of 1916 leaders

The president of the INTO has hit out at failures to realise the education vision of some of the 1916 leaders.

In her presidential address to the INTO Annual Congress in Wexford Emma Dineen said the beliefs of Pearse and McDonagh had a relevance for schools today.

She said Pearse wanted to see pupils follow their own strengths, interests and abilities in school. Mc Donagh she said believed in an education system in which the sensitivity of the child could be nurtured in the classroom, through teachers who are given the freedom to inspire and care.

However Ms Dineen said such ideas were impossible to realise until large class sizes and teacher workload are tackled.

“A teacher with 32 pupils in a classroom cannot find time to teach 11 subjects to every child in a child -friendly way and evaluate their progress,” said Ms Dineen.

“At the same time we want teachers to develop their pupils’ self-esteem, open their minds to the pleasures of the arts and encourage involvement in a healthier lifestyle. We also expect teachers to deal with increasing societal problems such as family break-up and parent addiction.”

Ms Dineen said all of this could not be done in some of the largest classes in the EU.

She said the incoming government needed to take action on class size and increasing workload.

“The very minimum required to bring our class sizes down to the European average of 20 pupils,” said Ms Dineen, “will be a reduction of one per year, for the next 5 years.”

She also said the Department of Education and Skills needs to realise that initiative-overload is counter-productive. “With more to do less is achieved by schools,” said Ms Dineen.

A new government has to let schools decide what is important and what is not and let them tackle priorities.

Ms Dineen said if Pearse were alive he would caution against some of the activities going on in schools today.

“He would warn against the obsession with measuring children’s performance; he would question the use of targets and data collection for system purposes; he would challenge the media preoccupation with league tables, particularly in the north of our country, and with an overcrowded curriculum and a school system tasked with remedying the ills of society, I think he would ask, where is the time and space for teaching, learning and caring?”

She also warned that teachers are seeing the physical and psychological effects homelessness, emergency accommodation and the direct provision system on the pupils in their classrooms.

She told the Congress in Wexford that lack of sleep, a lack of healthy food, no space to do homework and even to play, the inability to ask a friend around to play were all impacting negatively on today’s children.

She said schools need support to provide good food, books and personnel to deal with ever more complex pupils’ needs.

She said as primary school children reimagined the 1916 Proclamation and in particular the line “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”, she was struck by the number who wanted homelessness eradicated from our country.

“When children notice,” said Ms Dineen, “we need to sit up and listen.”

Ms Dineen said in DEIS schools staff faced a constant challenge to deal with the fall out of poverty, poor housing, alcohol and drug addiction.

She said they have waited long enough for the review of the DEIS scheme to be completed. There are disadvantaged children in both rural and urban settings, who need help and are running out of time while stressed teachers are running out of patience.

“To cherish all children and citizens equally,” said Ms Dineen, “as educators we have to continue the fight for the children with special needs in our schools.” Why is it she asked that parents and teachers feel they are always fighting an uphill battle on accessing resources and services.

“Special Education Needs is taking up an inordinate amount of time in schools. The paper trail is endless. The phone calls are endless. The time required is endless. No special education team begrudges time spent, if success is on the horizon. Often, however help is not forthcoming resulting in frustration for both teacher and parent.”

She also signalled a warning on pay.

She said if the economy continued to prosper over the next few years, public servants in general and teachers in particular would want to see pay restored.

She said most young teachers, especially in Dublin, have little or no hope of buying a house on a teaching salary.

“If our society values our teachers we need government to pay them a wage they can live on.”

She also said the issue of pay equality for newer entrants was a priority.

“The incoming government must commit to pay equality for new teachers,” she said.