Teacher's Pet


An insider’s guide to education

- That increasingly bitterclash between two education heavyweights is the talk of the sector.

In the one corner, UCD president, Hugh Brady (pictured). In the other, the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, Tom Boland.

Boland wants Brady to refund some €6 million in disputed allowances paid to senior academic staff. Brady has told Boland – and Department of Education boss Brigid McManus – that any financial sanction would be “inappropriate, counter-productive and of dubious legality”.

Who knows where this controversy will end?

But for now, Brady is the hero of the hour out in Belfield where even some of his arch enemies admire his resolution in facing down the HEA and the Department.

- These are troubledtimes out at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) bunker in leafy Rathgar. The union has been all over the place on the Croke Park deal.

And now comes Bangkok-gate, the tale of how two senior TUI figures jetted off to Thailand as members face a critical re-ballot on Croke Park. General secretary Peter MacMenamin and president Bernie Ruane attended an Education International conference on equality in education in Bangkok.

The union claims this was important pre-arranged education business and no junket. But some members – and some ambitious executive members – are furious.

In an attempt to mollify them, Peter MacMenamin posted an urgent message on the TUI website last week in which he criticised the leaking of inaccurate information. The union has enough difficulties without this, he wrote.

Bangkok-gate is already at play in the tense battle to succeed MacMenamin who retires at the end of the year. More on the succession stakes over coming weeks.

- You have tohand it to Paddy Healy who appears to be leading the fight for academic freedom, now under threat from the Croke Park Agreement and the Hunt Report.

Healy, the former TUI president and future Seanad candidate, secured over 150 signatories to a protest letter in this newspaper. The signatories included TCD academic Hugh Gibbons, president of the “rival” Irish Federation of University Teachers.

Healy also organised Saturday’s well-attended protest meeting in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. So far. So good.

The next challenge?

Working out a credible policy which accepts the need for some accountability in higher education, especially in relation to the minority who underperform and short change their students.

There is also the challenge of winning wider public sympathy. The public is unimpressed by those tales of double-jobbing lecturers and long summer holidays (especially in the ITs).

Can the new lobby group formulate a credible policy which will win public support?

- John Giles’ (pictured) award-winning biography A Football Man(Hachette Ireland) has been rightly praised for its vivid evocation of Dublin in the 1950s. Giles is particularly good on his old style schooling in Brunswick Street.

He recalls a new boy from Canada cowering in fear, with dusters flying past his head and all sorts of savagery inflicted both by teachers and pupils.

He also writes: “The idea of soccer as a foreign game was drilled into us to such an extent that, for a few years, after I left school I didn’t feel Irish at all.’’

Thank goodness, modern schooling in Christian Brother schools is a little more enlightened.

Got any education gossip? E-mail teacherspet@irishtimes.com