Who Jan O’Sullivan shouldn’t Hire as her Advisor
Jan O’Sullivan is our new Education Minister and, as a new member to the cabinet, no one has any preconceived ideas as to what sort of minister she will be. It is likely that she will come under pressure from the second-level teachers to reverse all the Junior Cert cycle stuff so hopefully she won’t spend all her time on that as primary schools require a lot of attention. O’Sullivan will need a decent advisor to help her along the way but there’s one person I think she should steer clear from.
If today’s Daily Mail is anything to go by, Lucinda Creighton, the former darling of Fine Gael, is someone who should be ignored and challenged. It’s quite possible that if Creighton hadn’t made her stand on abortion rights, she may have been sitting in Jan O’Sullivan’s place. Creighton gave the new government some key issues to tackle and here they are paraphrased:
1. Tackling School Patronage
While Lucinda Creighton doesn’t say that she thinks this is a bad idea, she has decided to link the right to a choice of patronage to increasing pupil-teacher ratio numbers in small schools. I cannot see the link whatsoever and this tenuous link is a potentially dangerous one. There is nothing stopping any school from transferring their patronage to another one and it does not affect the number of teachers that they will receive. There are other reasons why schools haven’t changed their patronage and very little of them have anything to do with government.
2. Teacher Quality
Lucinda Creighton believes the astonishingly rudimentary practice of paying teachers based on the results of the students in their class. This is common practice in some countries where the gap in education between rich and poor is ever increasing. It is widely accepted that children in more disadvantaged areas score lower in tests than those in advantaged areas. Therefore, “better” teachers will be headhunted to go to the “better” areas and so the story goes on. Another major problem is purely in the logic of trying to link the results of a class with the performance of a teacher. While it might work in certain jobs: for example, a radio DJ being rewarded for the number of listeners tuning in, it doesn’t work for, let’s say a train driver getting paid for the number of passengers he/she manages to get on his/her train. It’s not in his/her control how a person chooses to travel. In much the same way, teacher cannot control how pupils come to school and the level of ability they come to him/her. Even if this analogy isn’t great, all we know about this sort of arrangement is that it makes teachers worse at teaching 21st century skills. Studies show that all it does is make teachers teach to a test, which has very little pedagogical value. If I knew I would get paid more if my class scored higher in their test, I would be very tempted to help where I shouldn’t. I’d be doing no one any favours. Creighton really needs to thank her lucky stars that Irish teachers are generally trusted to do the best they can. Yes, there are some bad teachers out there but this in itself is a valuable lesson for children. Sometimes you get bad service and you need to work around it and trust the people in charge of these teachers through disciplinary methods. Higher standardised scores does not equal better teachers.
Creighton then concentrates on 3rd level issues, which I’m not qualified to get into.
One thing that seems to be in the news about Jan O’Sullivan is her religion. She is the first Minister for Education from the Church of Ireland. I hope this doesn’t go against her if she tries to continue Ruairi Quinn’s reform of patronage. Sadly, I think this will be thrown in her face, in much the same way that Quinn’s atheism was, on several occasions.
I hope Jan O’Sullivan does a good job and continues all the good stuff Ruairi Quinn did while also fixing some of the bad things that he did, especially to Special Educational Needs. All this takes money and I hope with the apparent growth in the economy that some of this will be invested into education.