Chalk Talk

News and views on education

Susi says it's doing better
Susi is still getting it in the neck about delays in processing grant applications, but it points out that it has speeded up since last year. In early August, Susi had received more than 59,000 new applications for 2013, the same as on its later closing date last year. By early September it had done an initial assessment and requested documents from 53,000 students, to be returned by late September. Last year 47,000 initial assessments had been made and documents sought from 41,000 students. By late September this year 41,000 had returned documents, and 20,000 of these were processed at the final assessment. Last year just over 6,500 students had returned documents, and 4,300 were processed.

Principals want to talk
There has been reaction to our coverage of the plight of principals caught in the middle of the ASTI industrial-action mess. In the run-up to the National Association Of Principals and Deputy Principals conference in Galway last Thursday and Friday, some principals privately suggested the agenda ignored the reality and allowed discussion only of "soft" education issues; others would have liked a special conference to discuss how the NAPD could make itself relevant. Another principal talked about the hidden difficulties of the impasse: "The abandonment by ASTI, the fumbling foolery of NAPD (while nodding to the Minister), the isolation from teaching staff and the forward planning left to one side". A recurring theme of teachers' dissatisfaction is the so-called Croke Park hours. One of the striking things from an outside perspective is how ineffectively the extra working hours seem to be used. In some cases teaches seem to be kept at school for the sake of it rather than for any benefit for students. One teacher mentions using Croke Park hours to have meetings about how to use the Croke Park hours. How about using the time for extra classes, or drama, music or sport – something positive?

Defending the public university
A head of steam is building up to resist underfunding, commercialisation and privatisation at third level. Launching the Defend the Public University campaign, DCU staff representatives host a forum tomorrow. RTÉ's Emma O'Kelly chairs; Prof Mary Gallagher of UCD ('Academic Armageddon: An Irish Requiem for Higher Education') and Prof Des Freedman of Goldsmiths, University of London ('The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance') are key speakers. The open forum is at 1pm tomorrow, at DCU Business School; all welcome.

Top girls
Women in education featured in the address by Mount Anville past pupil Catherine Day (above), now European Commission secretary-general, at the school's 'Hearts + Minds' exhibition, marking 160 years of Sacred Heart education at the Goatstown school.


Shock, horror
Apparently there were gasps of disbelief from delegates at the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English conference in Kilkenny at the weekend. Pádraig Kirk, the new junior-cycle director for continuing professional development, was outlining preparations for the new junior cycle. For the planned radical overhaul of the educational approach and curriculum, from September 2014, English (and other subject) teachers will have in-service training – of a single day (with a further training day in each of the two following years). Amid disbelief at what is seen as woefully inadequate preparation, one teacher said it would be like throwing 'Othello' at a class and saying, "There you go: sort it out and teach yourself."