What changes could improve education in 2020?

Ask Brian: For a change, here’s my wish list for the education sector in the coming year

It’s been a busy year and I’ve been privileged to answer all your questions in my Ask Brian column. Given the time of year, for a change, here’s my Christmas education wish list for the following partners in the education sector:

Minister for Education

An appreciation in the Department of Finance that money invested in education across the life cycle always returns a multiple of that invested, and an appreciation among all the various education interests’ groups that his room for manoeuvre when it comes to money matters is strictly constrained by the annual budgetary process. If interest groups want more resources for their specific sector, they must make and win the argument in the arena of public debate.

Minister of State for higher education

A greater level of cooperation and mutual respect among those who lead in our third level institutions, to enable the inevitable consolidations and amalgamations which are required to create a network of strong third level colleges to meet the needs of all our citizens.

School principals

An urgent re-think within the Department of Education on the role that school principals play. They can focus on administration dealing with all the legislation which relates to schools in the areas of child protection, GDPR, exam administration, etc, or they can excel as leaders in teaching and learning, motivating and supporting their teaching colleagues in their work. But they cannot effectively do both.


Teacher unions

That the public would form their view of the profession based on their experience of the teachers they encounter in their own children’s lives and not based on what they observe in the media during teacher’s conference week at Easter.


An acknowledgement among those who govern our education system that their presence in the classroom is motivated by a love of the process of teaching, the acquisition of knowledge and insight on the part of the students and by the teacher them self, and the energy that this creates among all within their school in this collective endeavour. This love of teaching has to be protected from the growing body of initiatives which constrain the amount of time they can actually engage in teaching.

Early childhood educators

An acknowledgement of the vital role they play in building a love of learning among our youngest learners and a willingness to pay them a living wage, based on their qualifications and skills.


An acknowledgement on the part of all schools that bullying is endemic within human behaviour and therefore that they must put in place a robust, proactive programme of antibullying strategies to protect the children in their care from the moment they enter school on that 1st morning in September until the finish up in June. This strategy must include all aspects of “in school” and “too and from school” activity on the part of all children. Dealing openly with “Bullying” on the part of schools is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a statement that the protection of the children in their care is their primary responsibility.


Respect from the adult world that their views on the future of our planet , which are radically different to those of their parents and grandparents, must be respected in terms of the painful sacrifices we will all have to make in our lifestyles if we are to save our planet from destruction. Their day in the Dáil was a good start on our behalf, but we must go much further and faster if we are to respect their right to inherit a healthy planet to grow old in.