Mindfulness and curriculum overload
Sir, – I was interested to read of the Minister for Education’s plan to train thousands of teachers in disadvantaged schools to help reduce pupils’ anxiety and boost their resilience (News, October 9th).
While this initiative has to be applauded, and few would argue with the importance of the building of children’s emotional resilience and coping skills, there are questions to be asked. Will this money be well spent? The SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) programme in schools already provides opportunities to foster the personal development and wellbeing of the child.
However, the issue of time allocation within the curriculum needs to be addressed in order to facilitate the effective implementation of the SPHE programme.
Time constraints have been exacerbated in the primary school with the development of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, which was launched in 2011.
While this strategy is laudable, the increased curriculum time allocated to English and mathematics inevitably has compromised the available time for SPHE.
Finally, when considering the wellbeing of the child, the reality of the changing profile of the Irish classroom needs to be examined. There is limited evidence of a conscious effort to recognise the extra challenges posed by the growing culturally diverse classroom. Teachers now need to be knowledgeable about the multiple cultures, rituals and belief systems of their pupils and families in order to support the child through the anxiety produced, for example, through a death or significant loss.
Studies of these issues need funding, at both initial teacher education and continuing professional development levels.
It is my wish and hope that the educators and policymakers of this nation would consider, reflect upon, discuss and take appropriate action to make Ireland, as stated by Mr Bruton, the “best education and training service in Europe within a decade”. – Yours, etc,