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NOW that newspapers bring out league tables on exam results and what are considered the ‘best’ second-level schools in the country, maybe they should accompany them with league tables of the physical condition of the schools in which staff and students alike are expected to perform.
I recently visited a friend who teaches in what would be considered a good school in Co Meath and was quite appalled by the working conditions for teachers there.
There were just two toilets, with no windows, for a large female staff and one had no light in it.
When I mentioned this to my friend she said the bulb blew constantly and they had to wait for maintenance people to come and change it as they were not allowed to do it themselves.
The staff room was primitive, to say the least, with nowhere to place belongings and no individual desks for the staff to correct copies, etc.
There were bags, boxes, books and copies everywhere, stuffed into every corner and every bit of space that could be found in the room.
Staff corrected copies while wolfing down lunch.
The only room they had to eat in was not much bigger than a classroom. The tables they ate at were large desks.
It was noisy, overcrowded, very stuffy and didn’t even have enough chairs, or even cups, for staff. Some were sharing seats while eating lunch. Classrooms were equally basic, with no shelving on the walls and just as stuffy even though there were no students in the class at the time.
When I commented on this, my friend told me that opening windows was discouraged by management to keep heating bills down.
Corridors were packed, with students sitting on their jackets on the floor or standing while eating. Not a chair or canteen in sight.
It’s not every day you get a chance really to see a school from the inside. Parents need to see what’s going on in their local schools and I now realise that seeing the few ‘standard’ rooms that are polished and done up for open days and nights tells you virtually nothing about a school.
This quick visit gave me an understanding why my own children, who loved school, were forever catching illnesses when at school and were in perfect health when off or on holiday.
As a result of this experience I can only conclude that the teachers’ unions must be either incredibly weak or do not have staff room conditions on their agenda at all.
New Ireland Road
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