Brendan McCabe, president of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), said they appreciate the importance of literacy and numeracy which the department has told schools to give more time to, while continuing to teach all subjects on the curriculum.
“Trying to fit in all 11 subjects is like trying to fit a quart into a pint. Teachers don’t want to have to skim over topics, they want to teach well,” he told 1,110 delegates at the IPPN annual conference.
“Literacy and numeracy are where teachers are more than happy to put more emphasis. But the department needs to offer schools clear guidance and indicate from which subjects this time should be taken.”
He told the conference, which will be addressed by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn this morning, that the way the curriculum is delivered also needs to keep pace with the media through which children now learn. He said major investment is needed in the kind of proper, continuous professional development that is available to people in the business world, instead of piecemeal titbits.
“If we’re going to have change, let it be meaningful and purposeful, and let it be accompanied by adequate resourcing and training.”
He said parents have a deep trust in their children’s principals and, in some ways, it is a great compliment to them and teachers that Irish society has such great expectations of schools. However, he asked if it is realistic to expect them to respond to all of society’s demands.
“In reading newspapers or in listening to political commentary, one could easily be led to the belief that schools can respond to all changes and lead the charge to cure all of society’s ills,” he said.
“The country has a drugs problem. Schools will fix it. Children are bullying each other on the local estate. Schools will fix it. Some children are coming to school hungry. Schools will fix it. We have an obesity problem. Schools will fix it.”
Mr McCabe said schools cannot provide the cement to plaster over all of the cracks in modern Irish society and we must look towards the primary source of the problem.
“Is it possible that asking schools to carry the mantle for all domestic and social problems is allowing others to avoid their rightful responsibilities?
“Schools solving problems can sometimes allow prim-ary carers to shirk their duties. It’s time they stepped up to the plate.”
He also criticised department cuts in supports for children with special needs, who mainstream schools have willingly and in good faith welcomed in large numbers over the last 20 years. He said it would be intolerable for the department to make cost savings at the expense of the most vulnerable children in schools.