'Our daughter has been slipping back unnoticed or ignored by the staff'


TO BE HONEST:An unheard voice in education: A PARENT WRITES:

My daughter has just started sixth class in primary school. Only a few weeks into the new term she is already having real difficulty with homework and clearly can’t keep up in class. She doesn’t seem to have the basics of spelling, times tables and so on.

Every aspect of the curriculum from division to Irish comprehension is posing a challenge for her. My husband and I are worried. We are not from an education background and we don’t really know what level she should be at. Unfortunately she has no older siblings or cousins that we could benchmark her against. However, our instincts are telling us that she will have real problems coping at secondary school if she doesn’t make serious strides over the next few months.

The problem is that the school has not acknowledged the problem at all. Over the past seven years there has never once been a suggestion that our daughter might not be on top of things. On the contrary – it’s been all happy clappy with an emphasis on how bright she is, how well-adjusted and polite, etc. Of course these are very important but we feel that behind all that positive feedback our daughter has been gradually slipping back academically, unnoticed or ignored by the staff.

It’s not that we haven’t noticed this before. In third class, when the school work seemed to take a bit of a leap forward and she didn’t seem to leap with it, we spoke to the teacher about the fact that her reading was very laboured and she didn’t seem to be getting a good grasp at maths. They assured me that she was doing fine.

Every year we get these test results which are supposed to show us where she sits on the national average but to be honest, they have never really thrown much light on her performance for us. We never came away from parent-teacher meetings feeling any better informed. The emphasis was always on her great social skills and how well she gets on with her classmates, never anything solid on her schoolwork at all.

We are genuinely worried that she is just not equipped with the basic skills she will need to make the transition to secondary school and that the school have not copped on to this and are not going to take the situation in hand. We had a meeting with the class teacher this week who admitted, grudgingly, that so far this term our daughter has been struggling. I just can’t believe that this is only surfacing now and that it has taken our intervention to get the school to admit that all is not right. With eight months to go until she finishes primary school we have a very small window to address the weaknesses in her academic development. It’s very disappointing.

This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome; email sflynn@irishtimes.com