That RTÉ documentary, Inside the Department, on Ruairí Quinn and his advisers is still the talk of education.
As the dust settles, the overall sense is that the programme was a lost opportunity.Adrian McCarthy and Wildfire Films assembled over 200 hours of footage over a six month period. There were given unprecedented access to senior management meetings in Marlborough Street and the decision-making process. But little on this made it to the final edit.
Instead, a good portion of the documentary featured footage on Ruairí Quinn at teacher conferences and other public events. There was also a focus on the personality and West Wing-like personas of Quinn’s young advisors Ian O’Mara and Neil Ward.
Some in the Department were disappointed with the failure to examine and assess Quinn’s reform programme in any detail. There was virtually nothing on exam reform and one scant mention of the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism in schools.
That said, Quinn himself emerged well from the programme as a seasoned political veteran, well able to row with the punches.
There was also one memorable scene where combative Department assistant secretary Martin Hanevy challenged school managers to explain how they could make savings. But the documentary – instead of developing this theme – trailed off into other areas.
* What’s going on between President Higgins and UCD president, Dr Hugh Brady?
Over the past few months, President Higgins has been strident in his criticisms of the new managerialism in higher education. Out at UCD, his comments were interpreted as a thinly veiled criticism of Brady who has pushed a “pro-business’’ agenda.
On Thursday at the Áras, the president received Dr Brendan Walsh of DCU who presented him with a copy of a book he edited Degrees of Nonsense: the Demise of the University in Ireland.
The book, which features a long, robust essay from Prof Tom Garvan of UCD, is sharply critical of the Brady regime. Some in UCD were furious when these pages carried an extract from the book earlier this year. How will they react to this apparent seal of approval from the President?
And is the President being fair to Brady who has been such a strong agent of change in Irish higher education.
* Here’s a prediction. The lacklustre response of the teacher unions to that 30 per cent cut for new entrants will prove very damaging in the long term.
The cut will create a new two-tier teaching force and prove divisive in every staffroom. The anger and resentment of young teachers towards the unions is evident on the various social network forums. Many younger teacher now feel little sense of solidarity with trade union where, they believe, the power resides with comfortable well off fifty-somethings.
For their part, the teacher unions have promised to challenge the cuts in a robust manner – but don’t hold your breath.* The good people in the Department of Education press office issued two press releases within five minutes last Wednesday morning as the Junior Cert results were released. At 9.34am, Minister of State for Research and Innovation,
Seán Sherlock sent his congratulations to the 6,825 Junior Certificate students in Cork who received their exam results.
Not to be outdone, Minister of State for Training and Skills, Ciarán Cannon issued a press release to a largely uncaring world three minutes later at 9.37am. This congratulated Galway’s 3,109 students on their Junior Cert results.
It’s reassuring to know that both are looking after their constituents.
Salary of UCC president, Dr Michael Murphy. Last week he told the Sunday Independent; “I can tell you that university heads are as challenged about paying their bills today arising from cutbacks as anybody else.”
Average per capita cost of educating each student in the smaller teacher training colleges – Marino, Froebel and Church of Ireland College of Education