Interview with Minister Ruairí Quinn – Call for Questions

by admin on 10/08/2011

Seomra Ranga is delighted to announce that, to mark the beginning of the new academic year, the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn TD has agreed to take part in our interview series on the site. For those not familiar with the format of the interview series, this is how visitors to the website can become involved: Minister Quinn has agreed to take questions from visitors to the website. You can submit questions for the Minister via the Seomra Ranga  Facebook or Twitter pages, or by posting a comment at the bottom of this post.

These questions must not be of a specific nature but about points in general in relation to education in Ireland and topics of interest in primary education in particular. Possible topics for questions could include the Minister’s focus on Literacy and Numeracy, the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, the jobs crisis for younger teachers etc. Questions should not be of a personal nature and should be succinct and to the point. I will collate / edit /amalgamate these and submit them to the Minister for answers / comments. I will then put his answers together into a post on the Seomra Ranga website at the beginning of September.

This is a great opportunity for practising teachers to put questions directly to the Minister for Education and Skills, so I hope that we can get a series of questions from a cross-section of the teaching community. I wish to express my appreciation to Minister Quinn for agreeing to submit himself to questioning through the Seomra Ranga website. If there are other figures involved in education that you think would be a good interviewee, please let me know.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Nigel Lane August 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm

What are Minister Quinn’s thoughts on the serious problems faced by schools due to the continued moratorium on promotion within schools? What are his government’s plans for posts of responsibility going forward?

Simon Lewis August 10, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I would have a number of questions to ask the Minister but I’ll stick to two of his big issues – the changeover of schools to different patron bodies and Literacy/Numeracy.

1. On the whole changeover of schools from Catholic patronage, let’s say the Church go ahead and give up control of a number of schools, how does Minister Quinn suppose this change will happen on the ground in schools? What kind of lessons will happen during the 30 minutes patron time each day? How will he ensure that schools follow an multi-denominational or non-denominational model? Will the changeovers be given to existing patron bodies such as Gaelscoileanna, Educate Together or VECs?

2. On the literacy/numeracy drive, while there are some commendable points in the proposal, there is a danger that schools are going to hothouse pupils for standardised tests in order to improve average scores. While this would never be publicly encouraged, as we have seen in the UK, it inevitably will happen. How does Minister Quinn envisage the way schools’ successes in literacy and numeracy will be measured without losing the holistic ethos of our primary education system?

Mary Jo Bell August 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Two questions:

1. Why are the Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists and Physiotherapists, so badly needed as support for primary school children, not linked to The Department of Education and Skills rather than to the H.S.E?

2. Why are children with Down Syndrome not entitled to any Speech Therapy after 1st class? Please don’t say lack of resources as, with careful planning and proper organisation, Resource Teachers could be upskilled by OT’s, Speech Therapists and Physiotherapists.

Sandra Doody August 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm

What are the Minister’s views on the following:

(a) the number of teacher training colleges?

(b) the appropriateness of a denominationally dominated teacher training college system?

(c) impact of SNA cuts on inclusion of children with additional educational needs in mainstream schools?

(d) newly qualified teacher employment opportunities in light of talks of an increase in PTR ratio?

Sandra

Brian Deane August 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

In view of the recent rioting in British cities and the comments of some observers pointing to the breakdown of family and an inability by schools to enforce discipline over some pupils as contributing factors, does the Minister believe there are similar issues facing Irish society? If so, how does he see Irish schools dealing with these issues?

Roy Mitchell August 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

A lot of the questions I have are already covered in the previous comments. My area of concern is around teachers upskilling and doing further study to both deepen and diversify their skills and knowledge.

In that regard, what are the minister’s views on continuous professional development for teachers to ensure that they are equipped with the best skills for a 21st century classroom?

Sandra Doody August 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

Reference Roy Mitchell’s comments on CPD, the NCCA issued intercultural guidelines. However, the DES did not provide money for inservice training to support the launch of this valuable resource and booklet. What is the point of government funded institutions such as the NCCA producing reports when there is no follow through on training? What is the Minister’s response to this opinion?

Joan Maher August 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

The words:
At the MacGill summer school the Minister stated that teachers should aim to contain or reduce the inequality in society that is already evident by the time children reach primary school.
Following the PISA results there was mention of the one in six fifteen year olds who do not have the literacy skills for the workplace or further education. The Minister made a statement that ‘Improving literacy standards in Ireland does not take lots of money or fancy equipment: it requires that we teach literacy better, and for longer’.

Now the actions:
Increasing formal allocation of time to Numeracy and Literacy and increasing the frequency of standardized testing. These measures are already in place in many schools. The English curriculum is to be revised. Changes are being made to Initial Teacher Education based on identified needs. These are postives.
Reducing the number of RTTs, SNAs and Language support teachers takes away resources that were specifically targeted at groups at risk of poor literacy skills. The amount of resource teaching hours is also being tightly controlled. The general allocation model for learning support (generally used for targeted teaching of literacy) prioritises those scoring below the 10th percentile. To get to the 1 in 6 those children scoring below the 17th percentile receive in class support.
Newspaper articles predict increased class sizes in order to contain the cost of increased numbers in the school going demographic . How is ‘better’ teaching to be promoted in these circumstances?
How can we avoid creating equality by dragging standards achieved by the majority down?.

Roy Mitchell August 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

What are the ministers plans/thoughts regarding employment equality for LGBT teachers employed in schools where their “way of life” could allow them to be legally fired under Section 31 of the Employment “Equality” Act? This affects thousands of teachers across the country and also affects the culture of keeping things underground, secretive and the widespread bullying that goes on in schools towards both teachers and students.

Sandra Crean August 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm

In these recessionary times would the uniform and back to school grants be better utilised by schools to provide necessary items for children in need that may not show up on the social welfare radar, the children whose parents are working but finding it very difficult to make ends meet. Teachers in most instances are in a unique position to be aware of difficulties while other children turn up in a new uniform every September.
( this may not be the correct forum for this type of question, if not don’t worry just happens to be a hobby hires of mine at the moment!)

Sandra Doody August 18, 2011 at 7:13 am

Prior to taking up the Education portfolio, Minister Quinn on numerous occasions was less than complimentary about the Department of Education. What is his opinion now of the Department now that he is at the helm?

Shane Ó Foghlú August 18, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Re Croke Park hours. How come voluntary extra curricular activities cannot be included ? The children gain such much from so many of these activities. Two schools that I know of (my own and my wife’s) who had three teams each in Cumann na mBunscol last year will only have ONE each this year. That’s at least 40 kids in each school who will miss out on playing school’s GAA this year.

Brenda Walsh August 21, 2011 at 11:39 am

There appears to be a direct link between school attendance and poor performance in literacy and maths. Children who repeating miss school end up with poor self efficacy in relation to these subjects. I work in the SEN area and watch students fall behind due to lack of attendance. Many pupils have missed well over the 20 days with numbers as high as 80 days – yet there does not seem to be an adequate system in place to ensure parents send their children to schools.

admin August 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I’ve already sent the list of questions off to the Minister for Education. It was impossible to include all questions that were suggested here, on Twitter and on the Facebook page so I had to make some decisions. I did my best to include as wide a range of educational topics as possible. I’ve included questions on NQT’s, technology, teacher training, SEN/SNAs, closure of small schools, literacy and numeracy, POR’s, patronage and a couple of others. I look forward to seeing the Minister’s answers in early September. Many thanks to all for taking part in the debate and I look forward to your reactions to the Minister’s responses.

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