Chalktalk: News and views in education

The weekly roundup of education news and views - this week: school admissions, waiting for counsellors in UCD, literacy and playing with art

Make your voice heard on school admissions
At certain key points in a child's education, school admissions policies can be a headache and a curse for parents and school leaders, because of inconsistency, lack of transparency and unfairness. Those who feel strongly about an aspect of school admissions can now put their tuppenceworth in, but they need to do it before the end of this month. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection has invited individuals and groups to have their say on the proposed legislation on school admissions.

This follows the Minister for Education’s publication last month of a draft Bill that aims to regulate all school admissions and ensure a fair and transparent enrolment process.

The committee’s chairwoman, Joanna Tuffy, says that “as well as seeking to curb the practice of cherry-picking students, the legislation proposes to ban non-fee-paying schools from seeking deposits or payments to secure places”.

Fee-paying schools seem set to be able to continue to make their own rules.


The general scheme is on the Department of Education and Skills website,; the closing date for submissions is Wednesday, October 31st, at 3 pm. You can make a submission via

UCD students have longest wait for counsellors
Students at University College Dublin are waiting up to six weeks to see a counsellor, longer than any other university in Ireland. Cutbacks are causing a crisis for college students with mental-health issues, according to a story in UCD's 'College Tribune' by Donie O'Sullivan. Counselling services at Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, NUI Galway, University College Cork and the University of Limerick told journalists from the student newspaper that they could expect to see a counsellor within two weeks. One mental-health professional at an unnamed university said its service had six students on suicide watch over the past week.

Student enrolments have increased 16 per cent since 2006, but the number attending university counselling services is up 33 per cent.

Advertising campaigns have urged students to talk, says Dr Declan Aherne of the Irish Association of University and College Counsellors. “Now they are coming out to talk, and we’re saying, ‘Sorry, we really can’t see you: come back when we have the time.’ ”

Psychiatric problems among third-level students are on the rise. The association says that the proportion of students it sees with anxiety disorders has increased from 19 per cent to 32 per cent; with depression from 9 per cent to 24 per cent; and with academic-related issues from 19 per cent to 29 per cent.

What happened to our famous literacy?
The adult skills study published last week by the OECD was somehow depressing. The national consensus is that we have spectacular levels of literacy, although we do admit to the old numeracy being a bit below par. And we are even worse with the computer thing, at least when up against other OECD countries.

‘OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills’, published by the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies – which Inez Bailey writes about on this page – places us at average or just below average, even if it feels that it couldn’t possibly be true.

We don’t send our children to school suggesting that they should be average. And no self-respecting sports coach would exhort their charges to play an average game.

So what causes this lacklustre performance? Is it the education system? Lack of investment in education? An indifference to lifetime learning? Or all of these? We need to find out soon.

Play with the art

It's great to see an art project with an education programme at the centre rather than tacked on the end. 'Paint' is an interactive, multimedia, multisensory exhibition by the artist Lucy Hill. In other words, an exhibition you can play with. The abstract oil paintings are accompanied by time-lapse films of their creation, which can be viewed in the gallery or at The interactive bits include light boxes and View-Master toys to let visitors explore in a hands-on way. It's at Linenhall Arts Centre, in Castlebar, Co Mayo, until November 9th, and is also part of RoolaBoola children's arts festival on the October bank holiday.

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