My fifth-year son has fallen behind. Should I be worried?

Ask Brian: The coming year’s Leaving Cert students are, by and large, in the same boat

Fifth-year students are a particularly vulnerable group going into the new year but all students  are in the same boat

Fifth-year students are a particularly vulnerable group going into the new year but all students are in the same boat

 

My son was in fifth year when the schools broke up in mid-March. I get the impression he is lagging behind where his older brothers and sisters were at the same point in their schooling. Should I be worried?

Many parents have expressed to me the concerns you are voicing as the Covid-19 crisis continues to wreak havoc on every aspect of our social structures, including education.

As a recently retired teacher and guidance counsellor, it has been heartening to witness the reaction of teachers, as their plans and schemes for the remainder of the 2019/20 school year were plunged into turmoil with school closures.

Many have made extraordinary efforts to embrace technology and online solutions, overnight, to connect with students and to provide for continuity of learning.

This reaction was rooted in the moral purpose that underpins the true meaning of the profession: making a difference in the lives of students. In this regard I would have little fears for the classes of the 2020/21 school year.

There is an old Latin phrase “Docendo Discimus” which, translated, means “by teaching, we learn”. Teachers are role models for their students, demonstrating that they are lead learners themselves.

This drive has been facilitated in no small part by the Education Support Centres of Ireland (ESCI), consisting of 21 centres throughout the country. These centres have traditionally offered face-to-face continuous professional development opportunities for teachers.

A significant factor in the ability of schools and teachers to adapt to the new reality of teaching, post-Covid, was the speed with which these education centres switched their provision to an online webinar model.

Many of the programmes delivered by them over the past three months have been facilitated by teachers themselves, sharing expertise and knowledge in support of their colleagues.

Fifth-year students are a particularly vulnerable group going into the coming academic year, and I understand your fears around the competencies of our teachers to continue to use online teaching as part of their tool kit of skills when schools return in late August.

However, all students, by and large, are in the same boat. The Department of Education is currently planning for the continuation of teaching and learning in the next academic year, to meet the unique needs of teachers and students when schools reopen. I have no doubt measures will be taken to take in account the disruption that students – especially fifth years – have faced.

The education centres will ensure teachers have access to the highest quality expertise in order to continue the quality teaching and learning that our system has been built on, and to enable teachers to support all students, when schools return in the autumn, particularly those who like your son will be facing the Leaving Cert in 2021.