Quinn says he wants to remain in education


TEACHER UNION CONFERENCE:MINISTER for Education Ruairí Quinn has, for the first time, indicated his desire to remain in his current post for a full five-year term.

There has been speculation he would remain in the post only until next year’s mid-term reshuffle.

In an interview with The Irish Times in advance of addressing the teachers’ conferences this week, he said his preference was to remain in Marlborough Street and continue his reform programme in education until the next election.

Mr Quinn, a former chairman of the Ecofin council of finance ministers, is also seen as a strong contender to be Ireland’s next EU commissioner.

A Labour politician has never held the post.

Asked about his plans, he said: “What Enda [Kenny] and Eamon [Gilmore] said to all of us was that there would be a mid-term review.

“The inference I took was that I was in this post for 2½ years and there would be a review at that point.”

“In my own mind I would like to continue until the next election because of [the programme of education reform] I have started . . . and I want to see it successfully launched.”

Mr Quinn said education reform was a “slow burner”.

Reform of the Junior Cert would be rolled out from 2017, while it could be 2023 before key changes to the Leaving Cert were fully implemented.

Ideally, his preference was to remain in education to drive this agenda forward.

The Minister said his “next project” was to examine the entire school infrastructure at both primary and secondary level to ensure maximum efficiency and best use of resources. Ireland had more than 4,000 schools but we needed, the Minister said, to get a clearer assessment of how resources were utilised.

Mr Quinn acknowledged his education cuts were imposing real hardship.

“Of course they are . . . but so is the 14 per cent unemployment for people who don’t have any job to do, the vast bulk of whom never thought they would be unemployed in their life.”

The Minister said he not expect a hostile reception from delegates at this week’s conferences.

He said he was appalled at the barracking and cat calling of his predecessor, Mary Coughlan, at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland conference two years ago.

“From where I was sitting it all looked a bit scary, but the losers in all of this are the teaching profession.”

He stressed that this kind of behaviour came from a small minority of the 2,000 delegates and did not reflect the broad view among 73,000 registered teachers in the State.

Mr Quinn confirmed that the report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in primary schools would be published next month.

The Minister has said he would like some 50 per cent of the State’s 3,000 Catholic primary schools to be transferred to new management – an ambition which has drawn strong criticism from Catholic Church authorities.

Mr Quinn is also due to publish a report on school admission policies.

This could make it more difficult for schools – especially those in the fee-paying sector – to operate admission rules which give preference to siblings of existing or former pupils.