Cog Notes: All together: what’s in a word?

In its latest report, the UN committee told Ireland to do more to provide non- denominational schools and Atheist Ireland said it was “self- serving for Educate Together, at the expense of possible non-denominational schools” to use this recommendation to “to plead for Government funding”.

In its latest report, the UN committee told Ireland to do more to provide non- denominational schools and Atheist Ireland said it was “self- serving for Educate Together, at the expense of possible non-denominational schools” to use this recommendation to “to plead for Government funding”.

 

Patron de jour Educate Together has been under attack from an unlikely quarter these days.

Atheist Ireland has accused the organisation of misleading a UN human rights committee by describing itself as non-denominational when it is, in fact, multi-denominational in its schooling ethos.

Atheist Ireland says that by passing itself off as non-denominational, Educate Together is “undermining” the duty of the State to provide genuinely non-denominational schools – by which it means secular schools that keep all religion outside the door.

In its latest report, the UN committee told Ireland to do more to provide non- denominational schools and Atheist Ireland said it was “self- serving for Educate Together, at the expense of possible non-denominational schools” to use this recommendation to “to plead for Government funding”.

Chief executive Paul Rowe says he is reluctant to get into a public spat but “multi-denominational and non-denominational are just labels; what we stand for is providing equality of access for children”. He says Educate Together has no religious affiliation and in this sense is “clearly non-denominational”, but its ethos was to “respect the identity of every child” whether they were of a religious or an atheist background.

The debate is set to continue at the Humanist Association of Ireland’s annual conference this year which is on the theme of “appraising our primary education”. The association, which has a complex relationship with Atheist Ireland (think Monty Python’s People’s Front of Judea sketch), has invited Rowe along as one of the keynote speakers. It is also showcasing Educate Together’s move into secondary education at the Galway event on October 11th and 12th (See humanism.ie).

Meanwhile, plans by Atheist Ireland to introduce a course on atheism in Educate Together schools have been held up partly for budgetary reasons, with a pilot course now earmarked for 2015.

Teaching standards linked to transparency

Very much the thinking man’s chief inspector, Dr Harold Hislop PhD dazzled attendees at the Joint Managerial Body’s recent teaching conference by referencing the work of international education gurus Daisy Christodoulou and John Hattie.

Hattie, he marvelled, had done “a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses – that’s about 40,000 research projects” into what made for good education. The answer: “Highly skilled, teacher-directed instruction”. (Now, that saves you on some reading.)

The former primary school principal created some dark mutterings among delegates, however, when he linked teaching standards to transparency, arguing that current arrangements on the publication of assessment data “may have to be reviewed”.

Parents already had a right to information on how their child was performing and “it’s not unreasonable for them to seek information on how well their child’s school is performing”.

At the conference, which was opened with a prayer, Dr Hislop noted that “crude and superficial” league tables had been created in the absense of better data.

Addressing the gathering of mainly secondary school principals, he said: “We may come to feel we have a duty to provide a better alternative.”

Amen to that.

Getting children to think

Periodic attempts have been made at introducing philosophy into Irish schools over the past 20 years.

A “thinking time” programme designed by Joe Dunne and Philomena Donnelly has developed a small but loyal following. The Philosophy for Children (P4C) model, designed by US child development expert Matthew Lipman, has garnered support from other teachers.

Now a further template is available: Mary Roche’s scheme of using illustrated children’s books to bring out the inner Socrates of primary pupils.

Dr Roche, a lecturer in St Patrick’s College, Thurles, Co Tipperary, explains the approach in Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks: A Guide for Primary and Early Years Students and Teachers (Routledge), which is being launched at the Reading Association of Ireland annual conference this week.

The conference at Marino Institute of Education, Dublin (September 25th-27th) also features talks on using e-readers to motivate boys to read, the whole school approach to literary development and a keynote address from Elizabeth Birr Moje of the University of Michigan on Teaching Students to Navigate the Literacy Contexts of School and Life.

For more see reading.ie

Noticeboard

This week (September 22nd to 26th) is National Adult Literacy Awareness Week, which aims among other things to inform people about free courses to improve reading, writing and maths skills.

You can learn with a tutor over the phone through Nala’s distance learning service or study online by yourself on writeon.ie. Call Freephone Nala on 1800 20 20 65 or Freetext LEARN to 50050. All basic education classes are free.

Gradireland’s careers fair for graduates is in the RDS on Wednesday, October 8th, with seminars and a CV clinic, and not forgetting 120 employers offering an estimated 3,000 jobs.

Entry is free, pre-register at graduate careersfair.com.

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