Concern over quality of Irish teaching in schools

There has been a marked deterioration in the standard of Irish among pupils in primary schools.

A new report raises concern over the quality of teaching of Irish at primary and secondary level.

It is one of a number of issues raised in the latest report by the Chief Inspector of the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, Harold Hislop.

Based on almost 5,000 school inspections conducted between 2013 and 2016, the report found that a “significant cohort” of children are not making appropriate progress in Irish and that standards in the language are poorer than those in English and maths.

In primary schools, the quality of teaching and learning of Irish was deemed “less than satisfactory” in 28% of schools examined, compared to just 4% for maths classes and 7% for English classes.

The quality of teaching and learning of Irish was found to be very good in just 12% of the primary schools inspected, compared to 33% for maths classes and 27% for English classes.

The report notes that “challenges persist” at post-primary level but that there had been an improvement in students’ learning of Irish since the last chief inspector’s report in 2013.

The quality of students’ learning in subject inspections was judged to be satisfactory or better in 68% of lessons in 2010-12, improving to 79% in 2013-16. Inspectors also noted a higher percentage of lessons that were considered very good and a matching reduction in ‘unsatisfactory’ lessons.

The proportion of lessons where learning was judged to be very good in Irish was 28%, compared to 34% in English and 41% in Maths. However, in 21% of Irish lessons observed, learning was “less than satisfactory”.

Overall, the inspector’s report found that the quality of teaching in primary schools was generally of a high standard and judged as good or better in between 88% and 94% of schools inspected.

The report also outlines positive findings for post-primary schools. The overall quality of teaching in post-primary schools was evaluated as good or better in between 88% and 94% of lessons.

However, at both primary and second level, inspectors noted that while the overall standards of teaching and learning were good or better, more lessons were “good” rather than “very good”.

National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals director Clive Byrne said the results showed that schools deliver when they are given proper investment.

“Today’s report shows that schools will deliver when they are given the right kind of supports. While today’s findings are very encouraging, I am also mindful of the remaining challenges for secondary education,” he said.

“Curriculum reform at senior cycle is an area where we would like to see more progress so that we build on the improvements outlined in today’s chief inspector’s report and address those where greater attention is needed.

“The current teacher shortage issue is also another area which threatens to undermine quality of education at primary and post-primary levels.”

Education Minister Richard Bruton said the report highlights “all the good practice that takes place on a daily basis” in schools.

“The findings from this chief inspector’s report, together with positive findings for Ireland in international assessments of reading and mathematics, most recently, the PIRLS 2016 report, affirms that the vision outlined in our ‘Action Plan for Education’ — that the Irish education and training system should become the best in Europe over the next decade — is achievable,” he said.

Maith go leor?

Teaching of Irish: The report expresses concerns about the teaching of Irish at both levels. Standards in Irish are poorer than those in English and maths, it says.

Primary: The quality of teaching of Irish remained broadly the same over the period 2013-16, as during 2010-12, and inspectors reported that improvements are required in this area.

The quality of learning in Irish was good or better in 74% of lessons, with learning in 26% of Irish lessons deemed to be unsatis-factory.

Post Primary: Challenges persist at post-primary level although the quality of students’ learning in Irish in subject inspections showed an improvement in students’ learning since the last chief inspector’s report.

The quality of students’ learning in Irish was
judged to be satisfactory or better in 68% of lessons in 2010-12, and that this
had improved to 79% in 2013-16.

Maths and English add up

Teaching of English:

Primary: There has been an improvement in the quality of teaching and learning of English in primary schools.

The quality of teaching and learning was satisfactory, or better, in 93% of primary schools in 2013-2016, compared to 89% of schools in 2010-2012.

Post Primary: Learning in English was found to be good, or very good, in 83% of lessons observed in inspections of English.

Teaching of Mathematics:

Primary: The quality of teaching and learning in mathematics was found to be satisfactory, or better, in 96% of schools, compared to 92% in the 2010-2012 report.

Post Primary: Overall findings from inspections are largely positive. The data from 2013-2016 shows that learning was good, or better, in 88% of lessons in maths, which is a significant increase, compared to 2010-2012, where the quality of learning was good or better in 74% of lessons.


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