As many teachers will already know, the government in its wisdom decided that one of the first cutbacks in the present economic difficulties would be to axe the ICT Advisor service with effect from this coming September. All the advisors who are on secondment from schools have been told to return to their classrooms for the beginning of the next school year. This is a bitter blow to many teachers who have found the support and encouragement from these experts in the promotion of the use of ICT’s in the curriculum as invaluable. Little enough support is given to the area of ICT and now that little support has been withdrawn. Like many other teachers, I decided to e-mail the Minister for Education and Science Batt O’ Keeffe (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let him know my thoughts on the decision. This is what I said:
“Minister, as a practising primary school teacher with a personal interest in the ICT area, I’m appalled at the decision to cease the service provided by the ICT advisors through the local Education Centres. With politicians continuously talking about the importance of the “knowledge economy”, this decision seems very short-sighted indeed. Without the encouragement and expertise of these highly skilled people, many schools and teachers will fail to value the importance of the integration of ICT into the curriculum.
This indeed is a retrograde step and surely if we want to get back to the days of the “Celtic Tiger” economy the one area that we should be investing in is education and more partciularly the area of ICT as this is the area where many jobs of the future will be available.
On a professional level, both the timing and the way this information was released to both the ICT advisors and the education community was regrettable but probably not co-incidental. Was it necessary to wait until secondary schools were already on holidays and primary schools almost on holidays to announce this cutback in education services? Surely it was well known weeks ago that this decision was imminent? Would it not, therefore have been courteous and responsible to allow the people concerned time and opportunity to seek out other jobs if they so desired? What if any of these people wish to take a career break, are they not too late now to apply for one? This is shoddy treatment indeed from an employer.
In summary, this is a very poor decision – short-sighted, under-handed and one which you may regret in the future.”
Three days later this is the reply that I received from the Minister’s Private Secretary:
“Thank you for your recent e-mail in relation to ICT Advisors. The position is that a Value for Money Review of the ICT Support Service has been finalised by the Department. While concluding that the Service is generally effective and efficient, the Report recognises that each school must plan and execute its own policy for ICT integration across the curriculum. It concludes that now, ten years on, the resources currently utilised by the ICT Advisory Service operating from the regional Education Centres would be better employed focussing supports for ICT leadership and change within each school.
The role of the school’s ICT coordinating teacher will be prioritised as central in the provision of ongoing ICT support and advice to teachers. This is in keeping with international practice to focus on local school-based and peer to peer support as the most effective way to further ICT integration in schools. The Department intends to redirect the funding to support school leadership in integrating ICT within schools and to assist, advise and encourage teachers to continue the process of integrating ICT in each subject area.
Education Centres have been advised that teachers seconded as ICT advisers will return to the classroom and the implementation of these arrangements is being discussed with the relevant parties. Yours sincerely, Ronnie Ryan, Private Secretary”
Now today, we learn of Communications Minister, Eamonn Ryan’s proposals for the provision of broadband services into the future. (http://www.dcmnr.gov.ie/Press+Releases/Minister+Ryan+publishes+
The soundbites from the Minsiters’s press release include:
- “the development of a knowledge economy at the heart of our economic and social policy”
- “to secure Ireland’s future economic prosperity and competitiveness”
- “the successful transformation to a knowledge economy will be a key determinant of economic success “
- “to develop our economy and provide imaginative technological solutions for our society”
All of these are laudable aspirations, yet how will this happen if children do not learn the necessary skills in schools because of the withdrawal of our ICT Advisors and the distinct lack of any meaningful financial assistance from central government in the recent past. Communications Minister Ryan’s press release promises “high-speed broadband (100 Mbits) to every second level school in the country”. That’s right, every “second level school”. No mention of primary schools. Good luck to the second level schools if they can manage to get better broadband infrastructure. However, primary education is at a loss again. No more ICT Advisors. And now no speedy broadband. The ICT future looks bleak.