Embedded shortcomings in education system revealed
Good news in report but it will be hard to solve the problems
Ruairí Quinn: highlighted a communications gap between school management and parents
Parents and students are at the receiving end of the education system but their views on the services provided are only infrequently requested. So it is interesting that their views are so well represented in the chief inspector’s report on the quality and standards in teaching and learning in our primary and post-primary sectors.
Previously the results of school inspection visits were kept within the Department of Education and Skills and were not issued as public documents. It was decided to revamp the inspection procedures for this latest report, changing them in the knowledge that at the end there would be a report for publication.
There was a considerable effort made to sample sentiment, given that 132,000 questionnaires were issued to parents and students at primary and post-primary level, and the results add significantly to the value of the report.
It will be reassuring for the department to see relatively high percentages of “satisfactory” and “better than satisfactory” assessments across the full range of subjects.
The report looked at both the teaching approaches taken but also the learning outcomes in the students.
Lower performance levels were seen in maths and Irish however, evidence that our educational system needs to improve in these subject areas.
The chief inspector Harold Hislop said that these results could not inform on whether the revised maths syllabus, Project Maths ,was having any impact in the classroom. There was confidence, however, that this would make a difference when the syllabus was fully implemented.
There are embedded shortcomings in the system, however, such as the fact that many teachers teaching maths are graduates of subjects other than maths or a science. This does not help when it comes to helping students with this sometimes difficult subject.
It is difficult to know what to do with Irish. The report showed that far too often there was a low level of preparation for the classroom. The inspector speculated on whether having better in-class teaching materials might help bring improvements, although it is clear there are problems when almost a third of lessons at post-primary were considered unsatisfactory.
The parent survey proved interesting because it revealed a communications gap between school management and parents, a point highlighted by Ruairí Quinn.
At primary level only 70 per cent said their views were sought on school matters, and only 65 per cent knew about the work of the school board of management.
The gap apparently widens at post-primary where just 44 per cent of parents agreed their views were sought, with 32 per cent disagreeing and 24 per cent saying they don’t know. And the schools’ parents’ association does not seem to link with parents given only 51 per cent of parents said they were being informed, while 28 per cent disagreed and 20 per cent didn’t know.