'Begrudging', 'sinister': a former teacher's response to a parent


TBH: A RECENTLY RETIRED SCHOOL PRINCIPAL WRITES:I was astonished by this column earlier this month. Your contributor, a parent on a school board of management, accused all the staff at the school of delivering a poor standard of education and suggested that the Whole School Evaluation (WSE) process props up poor teaching standards by giving every school a clean bill of health. The writer compared the State’s school evaluation system to the poor regulation that led to Ireland’s banking crisis.

To say that I found the views expressed to be mean-spirited in terms of all the teaching staff at your correspondent’s school would be an understatement.

Your correspondent seems to forget that the criteria of assessment for WSE have been arrived at in consultation with all the stakeholders. Without such criteria, there could be no attempt at objectivity.

Perhaps your correspondent has not read the relevant documentation. A minimum reading requirement for members of school boards would include all pertinent circulars from the Department of Education since the Education Act (1998) as well as the primary school curriculum.

I feel that there is a personal agenda at play in at least three statements: firstly, the inevitable allusion to “one of the shortest school terms in the world, with short working days”: this smacks of begrudgery. Secondly, the writer states that some teachers “appear to suit themselves”: this sounds sinister. Thirdly, the writer states that “ need an objective assessment of a teacher’s performance”. This is part of what WSE proposes. It is highly improbable that all the teachers at this particular school are underperforming. The inspectors are well qualified, many with doctorates.

The parallels with the banking crisis is also overstated. The writer implies that the inspectorate at the Department is falling down on the job when it has been widely praised for its standards and rigour. And the suggestion that inspectors are are in collusion with the entire teaching body at primary level because they are former teachers themselves is ludicrous, unfair and far-fetched. Most teachers are outstanding professionals. Please do not undervalue their contribution. I would encourage all parent representatives serving as board members, in consultation with the school authorities, to “shadow” classroom teachers to try to understand the reality of classroom teaching. It would be beneficial for all in general, and for your correspondent in particular.

This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome; email sflynn@irishtimes.com

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