Friday, November 26, 2010

No!!! to a Two Tier Teaching Profession


On reading our government's Nation Recovery Plan I have become extremely dismayed. Their savage cuts in education are going to hit the most vulnerable in society - a reduction in third level grants, student fee increases, reduction in teacher numbers in both primary and secondary, a 10% reduction in "new entrants" into the teaching profession, a reduction in support staff, a reduction in the number of resource teachers for traveller children, a cap on special needs assistants, a loss of language support teachers and an overall cut of 360 million Euro over 4 years.

But it is the creation of a two tier teaching profession that worries me most. There can be no situation where a "new entrant" into the teaching profession can be valued at 10% less than someone with one more year's experience. This is truly a disturbing development and one which must not be allowed to come to fruition. It's worth noting that the government have yet to state if new TD's will suffer this 10% cut but it is widely believed that they won't. There is another issue too - that of the definition of "new entrant". It is being claimed that a "new entrant" not only includes new public servants but also individuals who are returning to the public service after a break of more than 26 weeks. If this is true a situation could arise where an experienced teacher, who may have left the profession for a short period, would return to the lowest increment and suffer a 10% on top of that - effectively cutting their entitled wages enormously. 

There are also concerns for privately paid teachers, including myself. I am not a public servant but am paid the same pay scale as someone on my state wage with the same level of teaching experience and qualifications (I incidentally pay into the Teacher Superannuation Scheme too). So, should I decide to return to a public school or indeed be moved onto the incremental staff of my own school, will I suffer the same consequences too? - a return to point one on the scale and a 10% pay cut on top of that? All this needs to be clarified immediately and is a serious worry!

We cannot allow our staff rooms to be split into a two tiers, with one side paid 10% more than the other, and I certainly don't wish to be put in that position. The professional integrity of the teaching profession needs to be kept intact. For this reason I call on the Teaching Council, who's role is to "to promote teaching as a profession at primary and post-primary levels, to promote the professional development of teachers and to regulate standards in the profession", to stand up for teachers and not allow the government introduce these grossly unfair amendments to our terms of employment. To date few teachers are seeing the value of the Teaching Council and look to their unions to defend the integrity of profession. If the Teaching Council cannot do this or deems it outside their remit, then I see little value in its existence either.

National Recovery Plan

Well done to the SCC English team for quickly assessing our government's National Recovery Plan and creating a Wordle on its contents. A wordle, for those not familiar with the term, is a word cloud where the most common words used in a document are displayed larger than those used less frequently. Note the lack of the words "bank", "jobs", "recovery" etc! SCC English also have a brilliant series of Wordles on the works of Shakespeare.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Edublog Awards 2010 - Nominations

Here are my nominations for this year's Edublog Awards

Best individual tweeter - @sccenglish
Best group blog - SCC English
Best educational tech support blog -
Best new blog - The Catlin Coverslip
Best educational use of audio - SCC English Audio Boos - Patterns of Poetry

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frog Blog Wins Eircom Spider Award

A huge thank you to everyone who voted for my other website, the Frog Blog, in this year's Eircom Spider Awards. I was delighted (and extremely surprised) to accept the Big Mouth Award at last night's gala event along with my St. Columba's College colleague Jeremy Stone. I'm sure many were as shocked as I was when the winner was announced but I am delighted that so many took the time to vote for us and recognise that "big mouths" can shout about more than just politics, economics or business. It is great to see someone shouting for science and education being recognised by the Irish public. Thank you all so much!

Recommended Apps - Leaving Cert Papers

Leaving Cert Papers is an essential app for any pupil sitting their "big summer quiz". It contains a complete stock of exam papers and marking schemes for 32 subjects from 1996 to 2008 (not sure why 2009 or 2010 aren't included but it's still great) allowing you quickly and easily access exam archive material on your iPhone, iPod or iPad. The app permanently stores the exam papers and marking schemes on your mobile device without the need for costly and time consuming downloads. At just €3.99 it is a fraction of the cost of buying individual printed examination papers. A very useful app and highly recommended - click here to view on iTunes and to download!

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 Centuries of European History in 5 Minutes

Here is a brilliant animation which history teachers might find useful which shows the changing face of European borders over the last 1000 years - all nicely wrapped up into a five minute presentation.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Formula for Changing Mathematics Education

In this very short video from, Arthur Benjamin gives his new formula for reform in mathematics education. Benjamin is a mathematician and magician (he coined the term mathemagics to amalgamate his two passions) and sees calculus as having little influence on our everyday lives. However, he sees one area of mathematics that can aid our understanding of economics, financing and business - statistics and probability. Do you agree with him?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top 100 Best Paid in Education

In today's Irish Times, Education Editor Seán Flynn along with Peter McGuire exposes the extraordinary high levels of pay in the upper echelons of Irish educational administration. Below is an extract from Seán's article (with kind permission from the author) outlining the top 10 Irish earners in education. For the full article click here.

At a time of unprecedented budget cuts and the possible return of third-level fees, SEAN FLYNN and PETER MCGUIRE reveal the salaries of the highest earners in Irish education

OVER 75 per cent of the €8.59 billion education budget is absorbed by pay and pensions. This means that all other education services must be funded from the €2.14 billion non-pay element of the budget. Overall, Ireland has one of the lowest levels of education spending in the OECD. It is ranked close to the bottom of international league tables when it comes to spending in relation to GDP.

The consequences of this under-investment are evident throughout the sector. It can be seen in dilapidated classrooms, lack of adequate support for information technology, meagre investment in early childhood education, lack of basic school facilities, and so on.

But a striking feature of the Irish education service is the relatively high rates of pay for academics and bureaucrats – especially at senior levels.

Today’s survey of the high earners in education comes amid increasing calls for a €100,000 cap on public service salaries. Many of those featured on this page point out they have already taken pay cuts and absorbed the public service pension levy. The universities say they need to pay the best to attract the best. But the top earners also include senior figures from the huge number of education quangos.

In all, more than 60 staff in the education sector earn more than €150,000, according to The Irish Times survey. A further 476 staff earn more than €110,000. In all, 497 people are on the professorial salary scale, €113,573–€145,952.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frog Blog Nominated for Eircom Spider

Woo hoo! My educational science website, the Frog Blog, has been nominated for an Eircom Spider Award, within the Big Mouth category. The Big Mouth award is given to the "most influential voice online in Ireland ... who commands the biggest tribe, who’s a trusted source in their community?" (So you can imagine our surprise at our inclusion). The list of nominee contains an impressive list of active Irish bloggers, online journalists, "Facebookers" and tweeps, and they cover a wide range of topics from science to politics. The winner will be decided by a public vote so click here to vote for the Frog Blog and make us a a surprise winner!

A special mention also to Eoin Lettice from the Communicate Science blog and Ronan Palliser from my favourite photo blog who are also nominated within the Big Mouth category. Eoin has also been a guest blogger on the More Stress Less Success - click here to read his guest post - and is a brilliant ambassador for science in Ireland. It is brilliant to see two blogs within this category that are shouting for science!

Relabelling Teachers?

Is it time to relabel the term "teacher"? With everything that goes on in the modern Irish school (both primary and secondary), I often feel like actual classroom "teaching" causes the least amount of stress in my working day. All the other aspects of being a "teacher" seem to be what makes the job so bloody exhausting! So I ask, is it time to relabel the term "teacher" and replace it with a word that more accurately describes the multi-faceted nature of our role?

The last few months I've felt like I've been chasing my tail at work, trying to balance my time and efforts between the classroom and  the other essential roles that "teachers" play in schools. Just some examples of what I need to juggle during my week- JCT rugby coach (and referee), guidance counsellor, house tutor, a bit of TY coordination (my official title is the "Deputy Assistant Coordinator"), maintaining the careers library, local facilitator for agricultural science, frog blogger, tweeter, homework supervision, webmaster for the website ooh, and science teacher (full time for those who think my guidance role might let me off a few hours). Put simply "teaching" is bloody exhausting, - no wonder so many give it up to become politicians!

So I ask you - is there a need to re-brand the position and call it something new? Should we officially recognise the other aspects of our role in schools (the aspects we rarely get credit for from Joe Public).  Many people still believe we actually work 22 hours a week - I recently clocked up my time and I was working for more than 60 hours a week. Of course teaching is the principle responsibility of the job but it doesn't tell the whole story. Any suggestions?

No More Republic of Average

Below is a very interesting article from Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes, who suggests 10 ways to break "the grip of smugness" within our educational system.

I enjoyed my time over the past three years as Fine Gael’s education spokesman. Every day close to one million people in the Republic are in some way involved in education as either providers or students. From the teaching unions to parent representatives, I met great people who are committed to educational excellence. As a politician it’s one of the few areas of public policy where you can make a direct difference. Unlike being at, for example, the Department of the Environment or the Department of Transport, EU directives don’t really stand in the way of what you’d want to do if you were to arrive in Marlborough Street as minister for education.

Our economic recovery and educational reform here in Ireland go hand in hand. The current crisis provides us with a great opportunity to push through the type of reform agenda that is required.

The former Intel chief, Dr Craig Barrett, was right when he said that average isn’t good enough any more. But Irish education is exactly that: average. What’s needed is a new higher standard, underpinned by radical reform. When the Finnish economy crashed after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, educational reform was seen as crucial to rebuilding Finland. Over 10 years Finland went from being a basket-case to a smart economy where new technology replaced old.