Parents and students to be given wider role

PARENTS and students are to be given a louder voice in education issues under a new regime to be established by Education Minister Noel Dempsey.

Mr Dempsey made it clear to teachers at the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) convention in Limerick that they must give greater consideration to the views of others involved in education.

The national consultative process which he announced to them is likely to be a wide-ranging exercise, seeking the views of all education partners on the issues which are of most concern to them.

The minister cited methods of assessing students, school curriculums and whether students should be taught more life skills, as examples of issues which might be included.

"We need to hear from those involved directly in education parents, teachers, students, management," he said.

"We also need the input of those in our society concerned with the vital economic and social roles of education," he said.

Mr Dempsey told the delegates there was a need to change the way industrial relations are handled, highlighting areas of mutual concern such as temporary teachers, the length of their pay scale and the question of student discipline.

"Equally, teachers must recognise that other partners in education have issues which must be addressed in an atmosphere of mutual respect and partnership," he said.

Speaking after his address, Mr Dempsey said the agenda in education is all too often set by those with strength and the greatest clout.

"That often means increasing resources for their own particular areas, whether that is better for the education system or not," he said.

Mr Dempsey described the consultative process as being just a vision at present.

However, he said he will announce further details and time frames in the near future.

ASTI president PJ Sheehy had earlier criticised the minister for shelving a Commission on Education and Learning which was announced by his predecessor Michael Woods a year ago. This is now likely to be replaced by the more inclusive process envisaged by Mr Dempsey.

"Does this incident reflect this Government's attitude to education policy? No continuity, no planning, no long-term vision?" Mr Sheehy asked.

The ASTI president said teachers wanted issues of concern such as staffing levels, the impact of legislation on schools, curriculum changes, workload and professional development addressed.

Mr Dempsey said matters of this nature could be raised within the consultative process.

However, he said industrial relations issues would have to be discussed separately.

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