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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (14/07/16)

Your letters, your views...

Basic changes needed in the classroom

In relation to changes to reforms in our education system, I believe the reforms need to start with basic fundamental practices in schools that have a massive impact on how a child learns — far more than any major reforms put forward by any government.

I think Minister Paschal Donoghue is very right to say when he thinks public sector workers are already being paid enough — especially when they are being paid from our taxes, and so often have to prove nothing that they earned it. We are reaping the rewards of previous governments agreeing to the unions’ demands for benchmarking during the greedy Celtic Tiger period, and it’s a relief to hear someone standing up to them.

I honestly don’t know what training practices they are given nowadays in teacher training colleges, but young teachers, who refuse to do an ounce of correcting outside of their 22 hours’ class contact time, are alive and well within our schools, causing the entire profession to be tarnished with the same brush. It’s extraordinary that the Department of Education has no minimum guidelines on things that are simply not acceptable practices in schools in this day and age.

Some of these include:

  • Teachers who regularly do not show up for class on time, or are frequently absent due to being needed for “extra-curricular” activities like hurling, musicals, rugby matches, etc;
  • Teachers regularly showing classes video to fill in the time rather than as part of a structured lesson plan, or clips of films/cartoons as a “treat” for being good, or to get the class to stay quiet while the teacher does his/her correcting. I’m not referring to the odd film being shown on the last day of school at Halloween or Christmas. This practice is going on in many schools at primary and second-level on a disturbingly regular basis;
  • No emphasis on student attendance and punctuality not only in individual classes, but from the beginning of the school day. As a parent who has always ensured my children were on time for school, it is truly terrible to witness the same students arrive late to school, day in day out, year after year with no sanctions coming from teacher or management;
  • Schools who do not have any clear policy on homework, and the keeping of journals or diaries for every year group, no matter how young, so that parents don’t know what homework is being set (if any is being set at all) and no log that it is even being corrected. This feedback loop between teacher and parent is often the only link that most parents have with their child’s school, yet it is still lacking in many schools;
  • Constant interruption to the teaching of the syllabus with “school events/workshops/activities” that eat into class contact time with pupils.
  • Teachers regularly correcting students’ homework during class time when they are supposed to be teaching the class, when class contact time is already so limited. Class contact time is supposed to mean just that. When individual contact time with a child’s teacher is already at a premium (with so many SNAs needed but not hired), it should not be put at an all-time low by lazy teachers with poor teaching practices.

Beware the teacher who at P/T meetings tells you that your child is “brilliant”, “grand”, “doing great”, or any other adjective that is designed to put the parent at ease, without ample quantifiable evidence to support such praise.

Equally, beware the teacher whom your child thinks is “a legend”, “cool”, or is highly popular for reasons which have nothing to do with putting in a hard day’s work in their class.

When your 18-year-old adult child leaves school unable to do basic addition and subtraction without the use of a calculator, having spent 14 of those years in education, having never once been told by any of their teachers how remedial their maths ability was (as has happened to someone very close to me) and cries in despair before sitting their LC maths paper, then fingers need to be pointed not just at those who set the curriculum, but those who teach it. I would encourage every parent to ask for the results of every test their child sits, especially aptitude tests for literacy and numeracy such as the Drumcondra tests, or those sat during their years in secondary school. Under the Data Protection Act, they are entitled to see all information about their child. Forewarned is forearmed.

When teachers drop these lazy practices from their classroom teaching and start demonstrating that they do real work both inside and outside the classroom during school hours, then, and only then, will they get my sympathy for pay increases.

Let’s hope Mr Donoghue is not for the turning.

Bríd Farrell

Glynn Ferbane

Co Offaly

Assembly will lead to ‘camel’ decision

At the tech we used to have the expression, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”. To hand over the fate of unborn infants in the womb of their mothers to “a citizens’ assembly” will produce the ‘camel’ if that assembly is carefully selected to result in any form of deliberate abortion. As it stands, the Eighth Amendment protects both the lives of the mother and her unborn infant to the best of the doctor’s ability, which can hardly be improved but can be disastrously destroyed by a ‘camel’ decision. We in Ireland have a history of “packed juries”.

Why have a “citizens’ assembly” at all? Surely something so serious as the killing of a child before birth, is either morally and ethically right or it is morally and ethically wrong. Even the pagan physician Hippocrates knew it to be ethically and morally wrong, and any serious Christian concerned for their salvation knows the same. It is as wrong and evil to have a referendum on the killing of an unborn infant as it is to have a referendum on the killing of a born one.

If the matter involves murder, and abortion is always murder if the child is alive, the “lesser of two evils” cannot apply. A “threat of suicide” by the mother has been the gimmick used in the UK as the excuse to kill the unborn child. An MP on The Late Late Show admitted as much. The end can never justify the means, ethically or morally, if the means includes the deliberate murder of an unborn baby, who is totally innocent of any wrongdoing. We do not need a “citizens’ committee” or any kind of assembly to tell us that fact. The reason why hell is eternal is because of sins such as abortion. Father Jose Maniyangat saw souls in hell for abortion while he was detached from his body after a fatal accident. He returned to his body to tell us.

What is so difficult to understand is the SILENCE of those Catholic and Christian clergy, all of whom KNOW these things ought to know them. They were told by Christ to “shout them from the rooftops”. It is not enough for them to excuse themselves by pretending to themselves that these are ‘political’ or ‘medical’ questions that somehow, do not concern them. I end this with a prayer: “Almighty Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of life. We ask you to awaken in the hearts of men and women respect for the sacredness of human life from the first moment of conception to natural death. Amen.”

Frank O’Meara

No 2 Newline Road,


Co. Clare

Irish heart, English blood

Michael O’Leary urged the Remain side to “terrify the life out of everyone” at a Bloomberg Brexit Forum in Dublin last May. This approach did not work on the proud and self-confident people of England.

Vaughan is an Anglo Welsh name. Crosbie and Gubbins are Anglo Irish names. Most of the leading lights of the 1798 and 1916 Rebellions were Anglo Irish. “Palesmen who became separatists”, as Pearse put it. Sands is an ancient Anglo Saxon name so Bobby Sands was probably descended from an Elisabethan soldier. There is hardly a single ‘Irish’ person walking around today who does not have some English blood in them.

It’s a pity the Fourth Estate and political class in Ireland cannot adopt a bit of the Bulldog spirit. Winston Churchill was fond of saying “courage is the most important quality. It guarantees all the rest.”

Michael O’Flynn

7 Loretto Park,

Friars Walk,


Accept coursing is here to stay

I would like to compliment Nuala Donlon for her comments (letters, July 5) regarding the bill to ban coursing which was proposed by Maureen O’Sullivan which was defeated by a huge majority, 114 to 20.

Well finally Nuala Donlon and few others around the country who bring up this bill every few years must now realise that bill is never going to get through the Dáil as the rural TDs around this country where coursing and hunting are part of life are never going to risk losing their seats — which many of them would.

All coursing and hunting people remember that back in 2009 and 2010 the then environment minister, John Gormley, tried everything possible to hold up the coursing permit until two weeks before the coursing season started. He also included hunt kennels in the dog breeding bill in the hope that it would put hunts out of business which didn’t happen. The only people who were put out of business w ere Mr Gormley and his Green Party colleagues at the ballot box in the election of 2011. So the rural TDs know too well that they would suffer the same fate if they take their eye off the ball. After all there are over 300,000 people involved in rural field sports in this country in coursing, hunting and shooting, and fishing which generates massive revenue for the government. It’s good to see that Nuala Donlon has finally seen the light in the issue.

Michael Barrett

Newcastle West

Co Limerick


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