A Time to Reflect, Review, Discuss and Debate

Fáilte a Aire! - A Time to Reflect, Review, Discuss and Debate.

As I finish my thirteenth year as principal, I have noticed how our system has changed. Many changes have been very positive and some not so positive. We all know that the life of a school leader is not a simple one. In our jobs, uncertainty is the only certainty. This year certainly lived up to that. Who would have guessed what it has brought?

One thing that the pandemic has highlighted for me is how resilient and adaptable we are as a nation and this was highlighted within our school communities, through the adaptability of the teaching staff and the support staff both inside school and within our systems. The learning curve for us all has been huge, and we should celebrate that work at every opportunity.

I would not have liked to be in the position that the outgoing Minister and the senior officials were in. They had to make decisions under very difficult circumstances, with advice from the educational partners and various interest groups. We must trust that those decisions were the best they could make at the time, given the advice and information they had at their disposal.  It is very easy to throw stones. As for the return to work in late August, let us wait and see what that brings. 

There have indeed been many changes this year. Most of these changes, a lot of them good, will not make a difference unless we can at least reflect on our system as a whole and publicly acknowledge the changes that are needed to make a good education system great. We need to consider areas such as:  

  • The way in which our schools are structured
  • The composition and role of our voluntary Boards of Management
  • The continued resourcing of supports and services for school leaders  
  • The further development and coordination of our management and governance structures in the system.

We also need to reflect on the Leaving Cert and the emphasis on the CAO and University places in light of what happened this year. These are some of the issues or questions that require deep thinking and discussion in an open and safe environment. Let us have a National Education Convention, as we had in 1993, and as called for by the late Professor John Coolahan. Let us promote discussion and debate to aid us improve our education system.

Domsa, tugann an post seo fuinneamh dom. Mura bhfuil sin ann ní fiú é. Bímis buíoch d’ár foirne scoile. Thugamar faoi na deacrachtaí a cuireadh romhainn le fuinneamh agus le díograis. Tá éacht oibre déanta ag gach duine. Tá sé tábhachtach áfach go bhfoghlaimeoidh muid ón méid atá tarlaithe agus leanfaidh muid ag forbairt ár scoileanna ar mhaithe leis na scoláirí atá faoin ár gcúram. Dhein sé rí shoiléir domsa go bhfuil fíor tábhacht ag baint le úsáid na teicneolaíochta in ár scoileanna. Go bhfuil sé ar fáil do gach dalta. Ná caillimis an dul chun cinn sin.

Tá gá dár liom féachaint ar ár gcóras oideachais agus athruithe córasacha a chur i bhfeidhm. Ar a laghad bíodh comhrá macánta againn faoi.  Pé scéal é agus sinn ag teacht chun críche agus an oiread sin éiginnteacht ann faoi tús na bliana seo chugainn tá gá dúinn an sos atá tuilte a glacadh.

For the moment I would urge everyone to try to leave the school (be it virtual or not) in the next couple of weeks and take some time off to visit places in our beautiful country and to leave the uncertainty behind for the moment. Beidh an scoileanna fós ann nuair a thiocfaidh muid ar ais.

One person I guess, that will not be able to take a break this summer is our new Minister for Education Norma Foley TD, a fellow teacher and a Kerry person. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you well in the role. I look forward to you engaging with the educational partners. I would ask you to let it be part of your legacy to facilitate that meaningful discussion and to bring positive change to our students’ learning. Go n-eirí go geal leat i do ról fíor thábhachtach nua.   

Cathnia Ó Muircheartaigh is Principal of Coláiste Pobail Osraí, Kilkenny and a former President of NAPD.

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