IPPN Conference 2013
The annual Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) conference came to an end this weekend with the theme, “The Future is Now.” As always, there was an excellent mix of speakers including Michael D Higgins, the president of Ireland, and James Whelton, founder of CoderDojo. With over 1,000 principals gathered, one of the highlights of the event is the address from the Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn.
Quinn was not able to come to the conference for the first time in 6 years, due to a bereavement, so the Education Secretary read his address. The speech listed a number of initiatives that Quinn has and will be proposing to change the education system for the good. While secondary schools have already seen the fruits of these changes, there has been little in the media about the changes in primary level, many of which are excellent, some of which, as Seán Cottrell, IPPN executive director, described as “death by initiative.”
The first one is Aistear, a wonderful infant curriculum that is being rolled out in Ireland from pre-school up to senior infants. On top of this, the government will be publishing a new literacy programme for children up to 2nd class in September 2013. This will be very interesting and must be welcomed due to the difficulties with the current English curriculum. Another very welcome initiative that will be coming down the line is an Arts in Education Charter, which aims to ensure that all children have access to the arts and encourage creativity. Finally, the new anti-bullying measures are to be released this year. This list doesn’t include the recent SSE or literacy and numeracy improvement plan, so, yes, Cottrell’s assessment might well be valid.
The Minister’s address also referred to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism and the strongest hint of how this is going to work was revealed in that schools will be asked to amalgamate to open a new school in the chosen towns. For example, a Catholic boys’ and girls’ school will be asked to become a co-ed Catholic school and the empty building would become a multi-denominational school.
Most interestingly for me was the government’s plans to add new online services on top of the Online Claims System for administration and, at last, digitising the school roll book. In fact, this news is so interesting to me, I’m going to be writing an article about it on its own. I wrote about this topic about 3 years ago so it’s great to see it finally being acknowledged at government level.
While there was nothing particularly controversial about the Minister’s address this year, there’s a lot going to be happening in Ireland in the world of primary education. For principals and management bodies, it’s going to be difficult to juggle all of them.