Teacher's pet


Is new General Secretary ready for fire fighting?

The appointment of Seán Ó Foghlú, pictured, as the new Secretary General in the Department of Education was not unexpected.

Ó Foghlú – the Assistant Secretary General with responsibility for the Building Unit – has had Ruairí Quinn singing his praises since a ministerial visit to Tullamore earlier this year. His appointment has been very well received across the education sector.

In many respects Ó Foghlú was destined to be sec gen of education. His mother, an economist , was one of the most senior figures in the Northern Ireland civil service. He is also the grandson of a former INTO general secretary, DJ Kelleher.

His work on the Universities Bill and in the development and implementation of the National Framework of Qualifications marked him as one to watch. He is seen as a moderniser and impatient for change. He was one of the key figures in making a case for the abolition of the National University of Ireland during the Batt O’Keeffe era. The current government has been much more defensive of the NUI.

Ó Foghlú holds a degree in Early and Modern Irish and a Masters in modern Irish from TCD so he will be expected to be protective of the Irish language. What kind of secretary general will he make?

The funding pressure bearing down on the Department will limit his capacity to drive much change; education will do well to stand still in the current climate. And much of his time will be spent fire fighting as various groups rail against the cutbacks.

For all that, his tough no nonsense approach can make a difference. The various plans prepared by the Department as part of the Croke Park implementation process are conservative, unambitious documents. O’Foghlu may be more demanding.

There is an appetite for radical reform in education. And an acknowledgement that standards in schools must improve. There is also the task of boosting the image of the department itself, which is not always well regarded among other government departments.

Ó Foghlú begins work as sec gen next Monday. Watch this space!

Research rates atmosphere on TCD campus pretentious

Interesting findings from a survey of over 10,000 conducted by CourseHub.ie, which we overlooked: 32 per cent of Trinity Students rate the atmosphere on campus as pretentious.

– UL is the most popular university in the country with an 85 per cent satisfaction rating reported by students.

– GMIT is the cheapest place to go to college with an average rent of €253 per month.

– IADT and Maynooth are the friendliest places to go to college.

A Catholic ethos for a Catholic country?

The recent inaugural address by Prof Michael Hayes – president of Mary Immaculate teacher training college in Limerick – has drawn strong response from across the education sector – and not all of it complementary.

Prof Hayes delivered a robust unapologetic defence of Catholic education. Mary Immaculate, he said, was founded to be a Catholic College within . . . the Mercy tradition, and that is something we should not only acknowledge as part of our history, but recognises an essential part of our identity.

He continued: “So, if as the president of this Catholic College, I call on us all to come to a sharper, more explicit awareness of the college's Catholic identity, then, as a community, it will challenge all of us to look at our own preconceptions and take on the difficult work of exploring together what this College is.”

Dr Hayes did acknowledge (briefly) that the college is State funded. But his comments had Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn – who was in attendance – sidling uncomfortably in his seat.