ISSUE 68 â—? APRIL 2012
+ Leadership THE PROFESSIONAL VOICE OF PRINCIPALS
Traveller Pupil fails in discrimination case against school
The ongoing challenge of recruitment Principals have always had difficulty with the redeployment panel as it went against the core of our leadership role, that is, selecting teachers for the school.
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Avoiding pitfalls in teacher appointment Key Challenges facing Primary School Principals in West Cork The Primary Classroom: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study
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The ongoing challenge of recruitment By Seán Cottrell and Gerry Murphy In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins coined the phrase ‘getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus, then putting the right people in the right seats...’ Jim however was never principal of an Irish primary school. Principals have always had difficulty with the redeployment panel as it went against the core of our leadership role that is, selecting teachers for the school.We all understand why the panel is there but some fail to understand why, if the Board of Management is the legal employer, it can’t exercise its right to select from all available candidates, including those on the panel. However, almost everything we thought we knew has been turned upside down, with the restrictions being placed upon schools coming directly from our foreign paymasters.
Last summer was a bit of a nightmare for principals as a consequence of multiple redeployment panels and the delays in clearing the panels.
We read a lot about the brain drain and the loss of tacit knowledge and skills when principals retire, especially those who have taken early retirement. Thankfully, this is not the case with primary principals. We are most fortunate to have an expanding team of retired principals who are actively engaged in a number of projects which will not only capture their knowledge and skills for the value of new school leaders, but also redirect some of their energy and talent into new services for serving principals. These include acting as mentor in challenging situations which require significant time from an experienced colleague above and beyond that which can be given by the current mentors who are all full-time principals. In addition, retired principals are assisting with the delivery of the Ciall Ceannaithe programme. Others are involved in research and the organisation of our various CPD events.The professionalism of this group of retired principals is evident in their commitment to whatever tasks they are given and their insistence on it being carried out on a voluntary basis. A common expression is one of ‘wanting to give back something to the Network that they valued so highly’. It brings to mind the expression ‘what goes around, comes around’ and of course ‘rothaí mór on tsaoil’.
Last summer was a bit of a nightmare for principals as a consequence of multiple redeployment panels and the delays in clearing the panels.To add to the complexity, the clustering of General Allocation Model (GAM) and English as an Additional Language (EAL) hours was the cause of a lot of anxiety, especially when it impacted on base school issues and permanent staff. Department officials have stated that they are highly conscious of the consequences for principals arising from these issues. They have said they are committed to announcing the panels and having them cleared before the end of May, leading towards a more normal recruitment cycle, however this remains to be seen. The rush to retire by some of our senior colleagues, spurred by budgetary initiatives and pensions, has raised an interesting point. Traditionally, principals announced their retirement in May and the newly-appointed principal started on 1st September. This year, many new principals have started in their new role midway through the school year. It may be arguable that this is the best time of the year for a change of leadership; certainly the concept of a change of leadership during the summer break makes little sense. A newly-appointed principal finds it very difficult to meet all the people they need to learn from during July and August. On the other hand, a new principal starting in January or February is coming into a school at a time of relative stability. Schools are always busy places but January or February give some room for breathing space which simply is not there in June or September.
Editor: Damian White Deputy Editor: Geraldine D'Arcy Assistant Editor: Brendan McCabe Comments and articles to firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: Louise O’Brien email@example.com
The opinions expressed in Leadership+ do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network ISSN: 1649 -5888
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Traveller Pupil fails in discrimination case against school The High Court Mary Stokes (on behalf of her son John Stokes) and Christian Brothers High School, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary Judgement of Mr Justice McCarthy delivered on the 3rd of February 2012 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS 1. A pupil is unsuccessful in his application for enrolment to the school 2. An internal appeal is lodged with the Board of Management. The appeal was unsuccessful. 3. The pupil’s mother initiates a Section 29 appeal. The Department of Education & Skills Appeals Committee hears the appeal and finds in favour of the school 4. An Action is taken against the school at the Equality Tribunal. The Equality Tribunal find the school’s enrolment policy is discriminatory. 5. The school appeals the Equality Tribunal’s finding to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court finds in favour of the school. 6. The pupil’s mother appeals the finding of the Circuit Court to the High Court. The High Court finds in favour of the school. The school was held not to have discriminated against the pupil on Traveller grounds in refusing admission to him. THE FACTS The claim made on behalf of John Stokes is one of alleged discrimination by the school in its refusal of admission to him. The sequence of events commenced in November 2009 when an application was made on behalf of John Stokes for admission to the school as a first year pupil. The school’s Admission Policy dated November 2009 was applied. The policy was applied not
just to John but to all applicants. As has almost invariably been the case in recent years, the school was over-subscribed. Fifty seven places were allocated on the grounds that they were siblings of present or past pupils, and of the remaining eighty-three, thirty six were allocated on the basis of what has been called the ‘Parental Rule’, leaving a further forty-seven places to be filled by lottery. Had the Parental Rule policy not been applied, 83 applicants including John Stokes, would, it was submitted, have been placed in a lottery since he was not the son of a past pupil. On this basis it was suggested that the random chance of the applicant receiving a place in the school was reduced from 70% to 55%. The Parental Rule is one which gives automatic entry to the sons of past pupils, and it is that Parental Rule which is said to render the admissions policy discriminatory within the meaning of the Act. The policy can only be viewed as a whole for the purpose of determining the lawfulness or otherwise of the impugned elements. The number of boys admitted in the year in question as sons of past pupils amounted to approximately one quarter of the total admissions.
The Parental Rule is one which gives automatic entry to the sons of past pupils, and it is that Parental Rule which is said to render the admissions policy discriminatory within the meaning of the Act In its body the policy explicitly states that its rationale is to fairly and transparently allocate the available places in accordance with the school’s mission statement, the guidelines and recommendations of its Patron, and the
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Department of Education and Skills (DES) which arise, and the selection criteria, and lottery referred to in it. The school’s goals in dealing with admissions are described as follows: 1. On the basis of its mission as a Roman Catholic School 2. On the basis of supporting the family ethos within education by providing education services for the children of families who already have or recently had a brother of the applicant at the school for his post primary education 3. To make provision for accommodation for boys within its locality or demographic area, including students with disability and special education needs, in accordance with the resources provided by the DES and otherwise available to it 4. The sons of past pupils. The first round of places were given to boys 1. Whose parents are seeking to submit their son to a Roman Catholic education in accordance with the mission statement and Christian Ethos of the school 2. Who already have or had a brother in attendance or who attended the school or is the child of a past pupil or has close family ties with the school 3. Who attended for primary education at one of the schools scheduled to the policy (being schools within the locality or demographic area of the school). The ethos of the school is made up of what one might describe as a bundle of values and traditions that mark out its objectives, and influence how the school is run. The ethos of the school is in substance the same as what is referred to as the ‘characteristic spirit of the school’ (a term used in the Education Act 1998). The ethos and goals of the school extend to the provision of education services to children of
past pupils. The ethos extends to the avoidance of elitism, the advancement of inclusivity, the maintenance of traditional connections with certain feeder schools. Further, it extends to the establishment and maintenance of links between the school and the community, those who attended the school and the parents of existing pupils.
It appears also from the evidence that the inclusivity extends to ‘welcoming people’, ‘making people feel wanted’ and to ‘people of all shapes and sizes’. It appears also from the evidence that the inclusivity extends to ‘welcoming people’,‘making people feel wanted’and to ‘people of all shapes and sizes’. Having regard to the present and historical exclusion of travellers from many services and the undoubted prejudice (at least in the past) towards them amongst the settled community, practical factors such as inclusivity may indeed take on almost as much significance in terms of avoidance of particular disadvantage as any written policy. It is against the background of grave educational deprivation that John Stokes’ father did not enjoy secondary education. John Stokes broke that cycle. He relies, of course, on the historic disadvantage of his father or more remote ancestors in this action.Thus both the impugned element of the admissions policy and the applicant’s entitlement under the Act to certain remedies on the basis of a claim of unlawful discrimination are respectively based on the disadvantages suffered or advantages enjoyed by earlier generations.Travellers are amongst what is called ‘protected classes’ of persons under the Equal Status Acts and other legislation.Travellers are given rights and remedies under the Act which many others in society do not enjoy when, for example, the educational disadvantage of others who are not the sons of past pupils might have been for social or economic reasons of the same order practically or morally speaking. No remedy is available to travellers merely because they can show their disadvantage as such
but only if they go further and say that the disadvantage is ‘particular’. Whether or not an admissions policy (and in particular this policy) is discriminating within the meaning of the Act is a question of fact in each case. The disadvantage relates to other persons in addition to travellers and is not peculiar or restricted to travellers, and does not distinguish them amongst others of the kind (i.e. applicants for admission) and cannot be said to be ‘more than ordinary’, ‘worth notice’, ‘marked’, and ‘special’ because, of course, there are others in the same position as they are. If one takes as the comparison all other applicants (173) everyone who is not the son of a past pupil is at a disadvantage by virtue of the rule. There is no distinction between the extent of the disadvantage suffered by travellers and others. If one makes the comparison with those who are sons of past pupils the disadvantage suffered is the same as all applicants who were not such sons and have no priority. The appeal was refused the order of the Circuit Court was affirmed. OBSERVATION The above case demonstrates how protracted an enrolment issue can become when there is a perception of bias or discrimination by the family of a student refused admission to a school. There has been a mixed response to the High Court ruling in favour of the school. Management bodies and school principals are probably relieved that a robust enrolment policy can survive such gruelling scrutiny. Human rights & Traveller groups are not happy and there has been speculation about further appeals. Under the Education Act 1998 the Board of Management must undertake to run a school according to the ethos determined by the Patron. The ethos of a school is made up of bundles of values and traditions that make out its objectives and influence how a school is run i.e. the ‘characteristic spirit of the school’. What should be included/adhered to in an Admission Policy: 1. Have regard to the guidelines/advice of the relevant Patron bodies PAG E 5
2. Parents/guardians should be requested to sign acceptance of the school Code of Behaviour as a condition of admission to the school as specified in Section 23(4) of the Education Welfare Act 2000 3. Cross reference the Admission Policy with the school Health and Safety Statement. If an application by a pupil with a history of serious violence or damage to property is made to a school, the Admission Policy should state that, in accordance with the Health and Safety Statement, the school is not in a position to facilitate such an application. The Health and Safety Statement should refer to the hazard, risk assessment and control measures that are in place. Boards of Management owe a duty of care to all its existing pupils and staff not to admit a pupil who could compromise that entitlement to safety.
The case demonstrates how protracted an enrolment issue can become when there is a perception of bias 4. Special Educational Needs: In very exceptional cases the Board of Management may deem it necessary to defer admission of a particular pupil pending the receipt of psychological/educational reports and provision of resources by the DES to meet the needs of that pupil. This exceptional provision could only be invoked where the pupil’s admission would render the provision of education to other pupils impossible.The Equal Status Acts have stated that it is not discriminatory to refuse admission to a pupil with a disability if, by accommodating that pupil, it would render the education of other pupils impossible. The Department of Education and Skills through the provision of the General Allocation Model (GAM), and the provision of Low Incident hours has to a large extent given schools the flexibility to accommodate most applications. 5. Appeals: Parents /Guardians of pupils who are refused admission must be advised in the policy of their right to invoke a Section 29 Appeal in the event of an application for admission being refused.
Help! by Angela Lynch, Principal Advice Manager Feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? Overburdened? Anxious? Some times during the school year are worse than others. What is causing you to feel this way? It may be a crisis situation, critical incident or school tragedy where personal and professional support is needed. On the other hand, it may well be that you need information or advice on school-related matters and don’t know where to find this information. Where do I start? Let’s try the Staged Approach. Need a circular? Check ippn.ie – Under the heading ‘Supports & Services’, select ‘DES Circulars’ from the drop down menu.
The Principal Advice Service is designed to make sure that any IPPN member going through a crisis situation, for example, a tragedy or critical incident, will receive appropriate personal as well as professional support. Need a sample policy or plan? – Check www.ippn.ie – Under the heading ‘Policies & Plans’, select ‘School Policies’ from the drop down menu. Have a query? – Check www.ippn.ie - Under the heading ‘Policies & Plans’ select FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). This is an excellent resource on the website. Become familiar with the FAQ categories. These include such topics as Administration, BoM, HRM, Parents & Pupils, Recruitment, School Policies and School Development/Curricular Planning.Within each of the categories are many FAQs which are updated on a regular basis in the Support Office. This section provides a wealth of information. Still unsure? – Post the query on either the firstname.lastname@example.org or the email@example.com mailing list to benefit from the advice of experienced principals. Very few ‘new’ issues arise in schools. More often than not, at some point in time, another colleague somewhere in the country found themselves in the same situation you now find yourself in. As you will know if you have used the mailing lists, your fellow Principals are only too glad and eager to assist you with advice and support. After all, assisting colleagues with peer knowledge, experience and support was one of the main reasons firstname.lastname@example.org was developed. Need professional advice? – Contact your mentor if you are a Newly Appointed Principal. (A mentor partnership is arranged through the IPPN Support Office upon your appointment as Principal. To avail of a mentor, email email@example.com.) Discuss the matter at your local Principals’ Support Group.
Post the query on firstname.lastname@example.org. A member of the Principal Advice Panel will respond. If the query is of a sensitive nature request that your details be omitted as this is a mailing list which is open to any subscribed member. Occasionally, if deemed necessary, the query may be referred to the Principal Advice Panel for a one to one call. Need urgent personal support or advice? The Principal Advice Service is designed to make sure that any IPPN member going through a crisis situation, for example, a tragedy or critical incident, will receive appropriate personal as well as professional support. It should not to be confused with routine enquiries seeking information or advice on school-related matters.’ To assist you in understanding which category your own issues fall into, the following may be useful: ‘Payment of Supervision Grant. What do I do and who needs to be paid?’ This is a factual question with the answer available from a number of sources including the Policies & Plans - FAQ section of www.ippn.ie . Queries relating to the payment of tax and social insurance should be posed by your BoM to the Revenue Commissioners. This query would not be classed or processed as a Principal Advice Query ‘When a child arrives 30 minutes late or early for school, where does the responsibility of duty of care rest?’ IPPN’s position paper on Before & After School Supervision is available at www.ippn.ie. Allianz have published a number of articles on the topic which are also available at www.ippn.ie. This query would not be classed or processed as a Principal Advice Query ‘A parent in the school passed away at the weekend. How should I go about dealing with this situation in the best interest of the whole school community?’ This is a sensitive issue and the advice given will very much depend on the circumstances. Principals have received very strong support and advice from colleagues on in relation to similar issues. Depending on the circumstances specific to your school, you may wish to call the Principal Advice Panel on 1890 21 22 23. This query would be classed or processed as a Principal Advice Query and passed to the relevant panel member to follow up. IPPN believes that Principal Advice is one of the most important services of the Network. For this reason we seek to continuously improve our service.We would welcome your input as to how we might do this. Please email your suggestions to email@example.com. Notes: IPPN does not have a remit to give advice on employment terms & conditions or salary. These are matters for your union. To check whether there are relevant resources relating to your query, simply enter the relevant key word into the search facility at www.ippn.ie. It will bring up a list of available resources that include the keyword, which may include e-scéals, FAQs, position papers, news articles, Leadership+ issues and press releases.
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Avoiding pitfalls in teacher appointment By Brendan McCabe, Principal of St Colmcille’s BNS, Kells, Co. Meath and Deputy Editor, Leadership+ One of the things which cause stress for Principals is the appointment of new teachers and the correct procedures to be followed. We have all heard anecdotally of nightmare scenarios which have arisen when the procedures were not followed to the letter of the law. We know it is important to get it right. There are a few significant changes which have come into effect with the new Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure 2011. Note: Where I quote a rule below, the emphasis in bold and italics is mine DID YOU KNOW? 2.2.1. “ All vacancies of 24 weeks or more shall be notified to all teaching staff of the school and shall be advertised on one of the websites as determined by ...” You are obliged to inform to inform all teaching staff, including part-timers, jobsharers and those on career break. 2.2.2. “The advertisement shall invite applications with curriculum vitae OR on the agreed standard application form… Applicants should not be required to submit both a curriculum vitae and an application form.” “Applications should include documentary information to support the application i.e. evidence of qualifications, Teaching Council confirmation of registration; compliance with current Garda vetting and OHS requirements.” The advertisement may also state that “an internal panel may be used to fill fixed-term and substitute vacancies equal to or of shorter duration than that interviewed for.” Such panels are valid for four months after the Board approves the successful applicant. 2.2.3. (iv) “Posts should be offered to qualifying candidates in order of merit as determined under 2.2.6. The list may only be compiled if referred to in the advertisement.” “A copy of the advertisement must be kept and should be placed in the personnel file of the successful candidate. If the position is advertised online a copy of same should be downloaded.”
Boards of management may now, should they choose to do so, accept electronic applications. Boards opting to do this should carefully read Page 42 of the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure 2011. “Care should be taken (in short-listing applications) to ensure that the criteria do not lead to discrimination on grounds set out in Section 6(2) of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2008, i.e., gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and member of the Travelling Community.” For interviews “the Chairperson should ensure that the interview venue is fully accessible and in compliance with all Disability and Health and Safety legislation...”
The outcome of the interview process including nomination of the most suitable candidate for approval and the rankings given are only of those remaining candidates whom the assessors deem suitable for appointment. Perhaps the biggest change comes in the procedure to be followed in passing the results of the interviews to the Board of Management. 2.6.6. states “....The Chairperson shall furnish the final marks and the ranking to the Board of Management together with a written report, nominating the applicant(s) whom it considers suitable for appointment.” This, in my opinion, is open to several interpretations. I have consulted with a member of the committee who drew up the new Constitution and their understanding was that the final marks and ranking of candidates must be passed to the Board of Management for secure keeping. This is to ensure that all unsuccessful candidates have access to see their own marks if they request them. It is not PAG E 7
considered necessary or appropriate that final marks and ranking of all candidates who present at interview be openly discussed by the Board as this process is the specific responsibility of the panel of assessors. The outcome of the interview process including nomination of the most suitable candidate for approval and the rankings given are only of those remaining candidates whom the assessors deem suitable for appointment. This information should be presented to the board in writing – signed by members of the panel of assessors and recorded in the minutes once approved. Again, this data is retained securely in case the appointed candidate subsequently cannot take up the position and to verify board approval. I fear though that 2.6.6., as presently worded, may cause major confusion to Boards in the future. 2.6.7. “Confirmation of the receipt of suitable references of the highest ranked candidate(s) nominated for appointment must be included in the written report. References may be obtained in written or verbal format from the referees nominated by the candidate in their application form.” 2.6.9. “The Board of Management shall appoint the highest ranked nominee to the post unless it has good and sufficient reason not to do so and such reason was not known to the Selection Board; in which instance the matter shall be referred to the Patron, whose decision in this matter shall be accepted by the Board.” 2.6.11. The Board of Management must ensure compliance with the current requirements in relation to Garda Vetting and in relation to the provision of a child protection related statutory declaration and associated form of undertaking by persons being appointed to teaching positions. Current requirements are outlined on www.education.ie. These little tweaks in the old appointment procedures are an attempt to conform to employment laws and allow for the advances in technology. It is important to adhere to them though, so as to ensure that appointments made cannot be challenged. None of us need sleepless nights!
ICT in Schools So Much Choice: What should we be doing in our school? By Peter Coakley, Principal of Maynooth Boys’ NS, Co. Kildare WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING WITH ICT IN OUR SCHOOL?’ This is a question I’ve heard being repeated frequently in recent times.There is currently some fantastic ‘cutting edge’ good practice going on in schools around the country. Hearing about them can sometimes make the rest of us feel less than adequate in our use of ICT within our own schools. Should we be rushing to go out and buy iPads or Netbooks, Tablets or Nintendo DSs? Should we be blogging? Should we be in the cloud? If there is someone in your school with a passion/interest/enthusiasm for embracing the newest technology in an innovative way – go for it! However, don’t feel pressurised to acquire particular hardware because you’ve heard of other schools using it. Good practice in ICTs is not about having the latest and greatest equipment; it is about how you use what you have.
the operating system. However, the huge shift towards internet-based activities has minimised the impact of this. SCHOOL DISPLAY SYSTEM We came across this when visiting St. Mary’s BNS, Monaghan. We have introduced two 42” display screens at prominent points in the school.These have proven to be a very positive addition. In our case, they are attached to two small CPUs connected to the LAN, but you could use a very simple system connected to a stand-alone computer. You may use commercial software for professional displays, but this can be costly and require training - we mainly use Powerpoint. The uses of the system are limited only by your imagination. Items displayed include: ● photo displays – Very effective as they can be up on screen almost immediately after an activity/event and the pupils love them ● Pictures of pupils’ work – paintings, drawings, models, projects, handwriting, etc. ● Pupil of the Week – every Friday ● Artist of the Month, Frásaí na Seachtaine, Saints’ Feast days, An Aimsir, etc. ● Curricular items – English Grammar Rules, Writing Genres, SPHE – Good Manners, Road Safety, Anti-Bullying, Maths Week problems/Problem of the Week, Science Week, Tree Week, etc.
PICK A PROJECT As technology is constantly improving, it is important to continue to evolve at school level. It is not realistic to aspire to keep fully up-to-date in all areas, but it is worthwhile to have a project (or two) on the go. Depending on the complexity of the innovation, it can take a year or two to bed it in to the school – so don’t bite off more than you can chew! Some new innovations can be time-consuming, requiring a lot of teacher input.We decided to look for something less demanding for teachers but still beneficial to the school. We found two such projects. MULTI-SEAT SOLUTION We were able to introduce this with little impact on the teachers. We use them in a computer room. Now, instead of having 30 individual PCs, four CPUs provide for up to 32 seats/users. Some of the benefits include: ● Tech support and maintenance issues are significantly reduced ● Power consumption, noise levels and heat output are reduced ● Daily start-up/shutdown is effortless ● Software installation is much simpler. One minor drawback was that some older software titles do not work on
No two schools are at the same level of ICT usage. So, depending on where you are – be it ready to pursue the newest and most innovative technology or just wanting to boost some aspect of ICT in your school - there is plenty to choose from. Donál Ó Ciaráin gave a very comprehensive menu of items for schools to choose from in Issue 67 of Leadership +. ICT in Primary Schools and Enhancing Literacy and Numeracy with ICTs, by Robbie O’Leary, both give a superb variety of exemplars of best practice that might suggest a new ICT project for your school. You could also consider applying for Digital School status – see. Whatever level you are at, you will find something to focus on, which will keep forward momentum in your school in relation to ICT, at a pace of your choosing.
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West Cork... A Place Apart! Key challenges facing Principals in West Cork By Donie Keane, Principal of Bishop Galvin Central School, Newcestown, Co. Cork Four years ago, the OECD forecast that,‘If current trends in relation to early retirement of school principals continue, as is anticipated, almost half of all primary principals are likely to retire within the next ten years.’ Despite not having up to date figures to hand, I’m fairly sure that this prediction will be realised much sooner, thanks in particular to the financial incentive availed of by our recently retired colleagues. (And more luck to them). But this flight from the position begs the question of why are many finding their professional life so unattractive? Is it because, primary school principals are ‘over burdened, over stretched and overworked’, whilst at the same time being, ‘undervalued, underpaid and under resourced’ as former INTO General Secretary John Carr stated in 2004?
West Cork is a place apart, and this research, undertaken in 2010, set out to establish what principals in the area see as their greatest challenges and sought suggestions on how to alleviate these challenges. West Cork is a place apart, and this research, undertaken in 2010, set out to establish what principals in the area see as their greatest challenges and sought suggestions on how to alleviate these challenges. 82 principals responded to a comprehensive questionnaire and because 76% were teaching principals, this gave an opportunity to compare the challenges faced by both categories of principal. The vast majority of principals operate in co-educational schools, in rural or village locations, where quarter are 2 teacher schools, and almost 20% are designated DEIS. Over half the administrative principals had the services of a full time secretary, but less than 5% of teaching principals had the same level of support. Significantly too, 51% of all principals had not participated in any Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) programmes.
The substantive part of the questionnaire, 70 different items, was divided into six categories, reflecting different elements of the principals’ role: Leadership; Management; Administration; Public Relations; Pastoral Care and Self. Leadership was further divided into sub categories of: Instructional; Personal; Transformational and Organisational. Management was also arranged in sub categories of: Human Resources; Organisation; Physical Resources; Financial Resources and Time. The analysis revealed that principals in West Cork face varying degrees of challenge in carrying out their role. ‘Self ’ emerged as the category of greatest challenge overall, with Managing Your Time Effectively, Avoiding Stress and the Separation of Personal and Professional Life items of notable challenge for all principals. However, the principals themselves offered not one suggestion on how to address these personal issues. This disregard for their own personal welfare is an aspect of this research that would be worthy of further exploration. Of the work aspects of the role, Public Relations presents as the area of least challenge, while Management is the area of greatest challenge, with no difference between teaching and administrative principals.Teaching principals find Administration considerably more challenging, while Leadership is the only aspect with which administrative principals find greater challenge.There is no appreciable difference in the levels of challenge faced by principals in co-educational schools v single sex schools. Likewise, participants in LDS programmes reported the same level of challenge as non participants. Of the individual items considered, Conflict between Class Teaching and Administration was clearly the single item of greatest challenge overall. Preparation for School Inspections and the workload associated with Building Projects were the next most challenging tasks. Staff Recruitment, Strategic Planning and Preparing/ Communicating Policies also featured in the top ten. Encouraging all teaching staff towards Whole School Involvement emerged as the most challenging Leadership task, particularly so for admin principals. Special Needs Applications was the task of greatest challenge for all principals in the Administration category. PAG E 1 0
The vast majority of suggestions for change related to strategies to reduce the workload of teaching principals. Most sought increased administrative leave, in tandem with access to reliable substitution. Others suggested that the responsibilities and accountability of both inschool management and boards of management be reviewed. The clustering or federation of smaller schools was suggested by several respondents and there was also a suggestion that an administrator have responsibility for all non teaching/learning aspects of school life. What clearly emerged is that it is imperative that new models of management and governance be explored, not just to lessen the weight of responsibility on current principals, but to institute practices, that are sustainable and strategically planned, so both the system and individuals can better face the pressures and forces for change that assail us now, and in the future.
The vast majority of suggestions for change related to strategies to reduce the workload of teaching principals. Personally, it is difficult to disagree with Seán Cottrell (2010) when he said that the greatest challenge for all principals is to, ‘model hope rather than despair, positivity rather than cynicism.’ It is also worth mentioning the work of MacBeath (1999) who suggested that in a culture of change, which requires new models of leadership, there are seven essential characteristics. One of these is a realization that all leaders may need to be ‘locked up’. It is an interesting, but yet to be explored hypothesis..... A product of St Pat’s (1975), Donie has spent all his career in Newcestown, apart from a 2 year stint as coordinator of Schools Integration Projects (’99-’01). He holds an MA in Education Management. If you wish to get in touch with Donie, you can email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mentor Volunteers Needed by Jackie O’Reilly, Newly-appointed Principals/Mentor Co-ordinator Many thanks to those of you who have offered to mentor newly appointed principals. However, due to an increased number of new principals, we have some counties looking for more volunteers. If you are in a position to volunteer to assist new principals in your county we would love to hear from you. A suitable mentor is one who: ● Has five or more years experience as a principal ● ‘Networks’ with other principals in the normal course of his/her work ● Has a ‘common sense’ approach and a practical nature ● Can give some of their time either on the telephone or in person to a newly appointed principal ● Is professionally approachable while being discreet and confidential ● Is a good listener ● Has a sense of professional and personal generosity ● Is competent and conversant in the areas of HR and conflict resolution ● Has been proactive in relation to their own CPD. If you are in a position to mentor a newly appointed principal, please email Jackie at the IPPN Support Office on email@example.com.
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Learning in Focus The Primary Classroom: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study Executive Summary The Growing Up in Ireland study provides a unique opportunity to examine the school and classroom experiences of primary school children, placing these experiences in the context of very detailed information from school principals and classroom teachers.This report draws on the first wave of the Growing Up in Ireland study, examining the lives and experiences of one-in-seven 9-year-old children in Ireland. Combining detailed information from parents, school principals and teachers, as well as, crucially, children themselves, this report addresses a number of important themes in Irish primary education.These include the allocation of time to different subject areas, the approaches and strategies teachers adopt in teaching 9-year-olds, and children’s engagement in school. The Primary School Curriculum (Government of Ireland, 1999) presented a strong vision of child-centred education, with children viewed as active agents in their own learning.To what extent is this vision matched by the reality? Findings in this report provide systematic evidence that whole-class teaching continues to be the dominant approach used in primary education, with much less use of active learning methods (such as group-work) than had been envisaged in the original curriculum document. The current study not only provides systematic information on the teaching methods used but also explores the way in which access to more active learning methods varies by teacher characteristics and classroom setting.Variation by teacher experience suggests that initial teacher education for more recent education graduates has contributed to the greater use of active methodologies in the classroom. Less use of such methods among more experienced teachers suggests that continuous professional development in support of the Primary Curriculum has not led to a change in pedagogical approaches among this group. More active methods are much less prevalent in larger classes, indicating the constraints of class size on the effective implementation of the primary curriculum. It is of policy concern too that some groups of children have greater access than other groups to the kinds of active methods which may engage them in learning. Thus, girls, those attending fee-paying schools, those attending gaelscoileanna and those in non-disadvantaged schools are more likely to experience active learning in their classroom than boys, those in English-medium schools and those in disadvantaged (DEIS) schools. The reasons for such differences are unclear from the data available
here, but may reflect group-work and pair-work being seen as ‘easier’ to manage with more engaged groups of students. The Primary Curriculum (1999) emphasises flexibility at the school and classroom level for teachers to address the needs of their students. While such flexibility is crucial for effective teaching and learning, there is potential for differences to emerge which may negatively impact on longer term educational outcomes. In the longer term, this may translate into differences in student engagement and achievement in particular domains. For example, the findings point to significant variation in the time allocated to particular subject areas. Between-school differences in the time allocated to subjects may be as much as two hours a week, meaning that some students have over 18 full days less instruction than others in subjects such as Mathematics. Differences in time allocation are evident between schools and among individual teachers working in the same school. In some cases, teachers appear to adjust their timetable to reflect the mix of students in the school, with marked differences found between DEIS (disadvantaged) and non-DEIS schools, and between single-sex and coeducational schools. Timetabling variation is also found to reflect teachers’ own characteristics, with more experienced teachers much more likely to emphasise a ‘core’ curriculum, spending greater amounts of time on English, Irish and Mathematics.
The Primary Curriculum (1999) emphasises flexibility at the school and classroom level for teachers to address the needs of their students Finally, the results show generally high levels of engagement with school among Irish 9-year-olds. For the most part, children like school, look forward to coming to school and like their teachers. However, it is of policy concern that even at this early stage boys are more likely to be disengaged from school and to be more negative about literacy-based subjects than girls. Even more striking are the significant disengagement levels found among children with special educational needs, raising issues for policies around inclusion at PAG E 1 2
primary level. The findings also point to the emergence of more negative attitudes to Irish than to Reading and Mathematics among children, even at this early stage. In sum, this report provides valuable insights into the way in which the Primary Curriculum is implemented in the classroom. It has important implications for the Department of Education and Skills Literacy and Numeracy for Life strategy, published in 2011; for teacher education programmes; for the DEIS programme; for curricular and school organisation policy; and for policy on the inclusion of students with special educational needs. The authors of the report are Dr. Selina McCoy, Dr. Emer Smyth and Dr. Joanne Banks. It is published jointly by NCCA and ESRI and is available to download from www.esri.ie or www.ncca.ie.
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Towards a leaner, more accessible, more integrated curriculum By Dr. Sarah FitzPatrick, Deputy CEO, NCCA A curriculum which espouses a child-centred theory and pedagogy, as the Primary School Curriculum (1999) does, would seem to be wellpositioned to support children’s learning and development in today’s complex world. Yet The Primary Classroom report points to disengagement for some 9-year olds and a predominance of whole-class teaching. These findings, while of concern to us are perhaps not entirely surprising, given the tension between the childcentred focus of the curriculum and the overcrowded nature of it. It’s not too hard to imagine that the child-centred approach—influencing teachers’ use of methods and children’s engagement in learning—has become somewhat submerged especially in recent years. Our schools seem to be struggling—under the burden of increased documentation, requirements and expectations—to keep the child central to the learning process. The sheer size of the curriculum coupled with increased legislative
and policy requirements, school-based initiatives and programmes and the diversity of children’s needs in classrooms today, render the child-centred nature of the curriculum questionable in practice. In our reviews of the curriculum in schools, teachers reported that they had strong ownership of the child-centred ideals in the curriculum but that they were unsure how to put these into practice. Ironically, children themselves have told us that how they learn is very important and often determines how much they liked a subject. Collaborative learning, active learning, inquirybased learning, differentiated learning and authentic learning are the kinds of learning activities children describe as the most enjoyable and interesting, regardless of subject. Greater use of these child-centred methods seems like a winwin for teachers—given the opportunity to embed concepts and skills from a range of subjects in interesting and relevant activities and to give
children themselves opportunities to assess progress and provide feedback based on clear learning intentions. Some requirements of the new Language Curriculum for infant classes in 2014 will not surprise you! They include … a leaner, more accessible more integrated curriculum, clearly identified outcomes, descriptions of the skills and strategies required and practical examples of how to teach them in a range of authentic and meaningful contexts. Teacher autonomy remains key as should practical, useful, high-quality support. A curriculum is always of its time. In 2012, we’re also returning to the key question about what we want of our primary schools today, and what kind of curriculum is most likely to achieve those aims. We welcome your input and invite you to have your say on the priorities for primary education at: www.childrentheirlivestheirlearning.ie.
English Third to Sixth Classes The Wonderland English Literacy Programme for Stages Three and Four comprises of four books:
The My Read at Home Book series develops reading fluency and comprehension skills by encouraging daily and independent reading at home. The series currently consists of four books: My Read at Home Book 3, 4, 5 and 6.
+ Get Set! (Stage Three, Book 1) + Let’s Go! (Stage Three, Book 2) + Up and Running! (Stage Four, Book 1) + Racing Ahead! (Stage Four, Book 2) Each reader contains 20 extracts from published children’s literature, 10 fact units and 10 poems. The extracts have been carefully chosen by peer reviewers and cover a wide range of reading genres. Each extract is followed by a series of activities. The Teacher’s Notes that accompany each book include a comprehensive week-by-week, month-by-month scheme. ICT is fully integrated throughout the programme.
As this is an independent series, it can be used in conjunction with any reading programme. Each book consists of 120 single-page units, arranged into 30 sections (one per week of the school year). Each page is a vibrant stand-alone piece, with a variety of styles and themes to appeal to all tastes and interests.
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Stoking the Flames By Dan Daly, Principal, Robinstown NS, Navan. Co Meath ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.’ I think of Michael Corleone’s famous words in the ‘Godfather’ from time to time. As a teaching ‘Capo’, I found it hard to get away.There was always some business, something or somebody that needed attention. I often meant to attend the IPPN annual conference but for one reason or another never got round to it. This year’s conference was themed ‘Forging a Future’ and, since I felt I was on my last set of horseshoes, I decided I’d better attend. I now propose availing of all such opportunities before being put out to grass. The Citywest Hotel is huge. It appeared to have miles of corridors. Finally I located room 3541. It had enough accommodation for the whole family, but I decided to keep that information to myself. That Thursday afternoon I visited the massive, busy ‘Education Expo’. It appeared to me like a medieval village with its maze of little streets and merchants peddling their wares at open-fronted shops. Some people ambled around leisurely; others discussed business. ‘I know you,’ a friendly young man informed me. He had me at a disadvantage. ‘I saw you on that Misneach DVD.’ He was referring to an educational film made by LDS many years ago. I thank God I only made the one movie. The jovial Michael McHugh, the incorruptible face of modern finance, fronted the Comhar Linn stand. We had Tennis4Kids, the GAA and many more. Folens, Fallons, Edco, Gill & MacMillan, Veritas and Prim Ed showered us with offers and books. Christy Moore could have composed a fine ballad about the goings on. ‘Dan!’ someone shouted. Not another movie buff, I thought. It was Niall, a former student of mine who was hosting the Glanmore stand. They provide lunches to schools. I received VIP treatment from Niall. Despite my protestations that I was on the way to lunch, he sat me down and laid one of his prize-winning scones in front of me. He filled me a goodie bag and regaled his audience of four on how I had contributed to his success. I munched my scone and lowered my head. Movies and teaching; the audiences never forget. And he ruined my lunch- ironic in the circumstances. Noel Friel, retired Principal and fine entertainer, was acting as a host and a great one at that. ‘Hard to believe that this is your first conference,’ he commented. It got me thinking. It is probably no coincidence that I have just become an administrative principal. It gives you a freedom or space to stand back and take an objective look at
things. As a teaching principal I never felt I had that facility. You are on a treadmill and you just keep on running. Seventy per cent of principals teach; they are the actor directors, the player managers. When you step off that perpetual motion machine and begin to concentrate on management and administration, you have time to reflect. One of the greatest benefits of the last decade’s curriculum review meetings was meeting fellow teachers. The great benefit from the IPPN conference was meeting fellow principals and deputy principals. It was fitting that the first seminar I attended was Time Management for Administrative Principals.Aiden O Brien, principal of the 42-teacher Scoil Oilibhéar in Cork City, wouldn’t survive if he hadn’t many fine ideas and suggestions. He is a believer in MBWA - management by walk about. His advice was sensible and useful. Micheál Rea, principal of the 135-pupil Walterstown N.S. outside Cobh in Cork, delivered a seminar for teaching principals. He also dealt with time management but I couldn’t attend that one. Alas since I‘ve become an administrative principal I’ve lost the power of bi-location. After breakfast next morning, Friday, I had a ‘Wordsworth’ moment. I watched a man cutting the grass on a golf green. He was silhouetted against a semi-circular lake, framed by a couple of trees. His high visibility figure moved across the green under a pale blue sky, strewn with wispy creamy clouds. A veneer of light mist hung in the background. It was a calm, beautiful scene. Unbeknownst to him, he was part of as fine a presentation as any seen at the conference. The auditorium was in the colossal convention centre. It was essentially a huge white tent with a creamy sheeted ceiling. I thought of those creamy clouds. Olivia O’Leary was the chairperson.When the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn was introduced, a group of principals held a dignified, silent protest against the cuts to small schools. In short, his message was that there was little money; the troika was calling the shots. Seán Cottrell, IPPN director replied to the minister’s comment that fear had been removed from the classrooms, by saying that it was now in the staffrooms. Lord David Puttnam, Mary Robinson and Professor Michael Fullan also graced the stage over the two days. Joan Keating gave a workshop on Self Assessment and Learning Folders - Guidelines for Teachers in the afternoon. Joan and I go back a long way. As NTs, we did the BEd together back in 1989-91 and a group of us from Meath learned much of the bit PAG E 1 4
we did in Joan’s house in Kells. Joan is as vibrant and enthusiastic as ever, the SALF system is very impressive and I’m still learning from her. Ben Walden (in photo) is an actor and presenter. On Saturday morning he presented his programme ‘Contender Charlie.’ It was an intriguing performance, a dramatic and inspiring insight into leadership based on Shakespeare’s Henry V and his travails in France in the lead up to the battle of Agincourt.The King was seriously understaffed and had to inspire his troops - some of whom were Irish - and give them a vision. He had to watch his back and deal with troublemakers while struggling with his own insecurities and shortcomings. Does this remind you of anyone? He quoted Albert Einstein who said that imagination is more important than knowledge. He told us that the Europa Hotel in Belfast has a very simple mission statement: ‘We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.’ He also gave us a quote from Henry V which I humbly suggest should be part of every principal’s and deputy principal’s lexicon - ‘I should be angry with you if the time were convenient.’ My friend, Eamonn reached over to me and whispered that he feared he wasn’t a leader at all. I said I knew exactly how he felt. It was as if Ben Walden heard us for at that moment he told us about Henry’s dark night of the soul, a period of doubt and uncertainty where he wondered if he were a leader – ‘Upon the King. Let’s lay everything upon the king: Our lives, our souls, our debts, our anxious wives, Our children, and our sins, I must bear Responsibility for all of it. What a painful condition Responsibility is.’ He finished by telling us that every morning he entrusts the most important thing in his world his children - to ‘us,’ his local head teacher. He was great. Fellow Meath principal and IPPN deputy president, Brendan McCabe brought the conference to a close with a concise and measured speech. It was a fitting bookend to the conference for he had written the very fine introduction in the conference programme. W.B. Yeats once said that education is lighting a fire not filling a bucket. The conference was true to that sentiment. The bellows was pumped, the flames were stoked and, as in any good get-together, a few sparks flew. The ‘Contender Charlie’ programme returns in May as part of the IPPN Deputy Principals’ Conference.
Principal in Profile: Liam O’Neill, Principal of Gaelscoil Thromaire and GAA President Liam O’Neill, Principal of Gaelscoil Thromaire in Maighean Ratha, County Laois takes up the reins as Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael for the next 3 years. He is the second Laois native to hold the position following Borris-in-Ossory teacher Rob O’Keefe’s tenure from 1935 to 1938.
closed. Liam calls to mind the lines from Longford poet Oliver Goldsmith in the ‘the Deserted Village’
Liam has been principal of his school since 1981 when he succeeded his father, also Liam, who had previously served 40 years as principal. In fact, the connection with the school goes back a remarkable 101 years in total as Liam’s grand aunt had served as principal from 1911 to 1941.
‘The numbers in any national school will fluctuate. The fact of the matter is this community suffered a hit in the seventies. There were 3 national schools, but two of them are now closed’ he added. ‘We now look across the green fields and see the traffic of the country passing us on the N7. We have the noise pollution from that. We know it represents progress of a sort, but has life improved for this community with the closing of Clonard and Kilbricken national schools, the post office, the pub and the train station’?.
Liam has been in GAA administration for 37 years, beginning as secretary of UCD Hurling Club before going on to hold key roles at club, county, provincial and national levels.
‘But times are altered, trades unfeeling train Usurp the land and dispossess the swain’.
Liam is married to Áine and they have 3 children, Ciarán, Clíodhna and Caoimhe. The most prestigious office in Irish sport is now in the hands of a powerful advocate for the small school. Expect some straight talking in the years ahead.
Liam has been in GAA administration for 37 years, beginning as secretary of UCD Hurling Club before going on to hold key roles at club, county, provincial and national levels. He played hurling for many years with Trumera, captaining the team to win the Laois Junior C title in recent years. He is a strong advocate of hurling development in ‘weaker’ counties and a voice for the small units within the GAA. ‘The GAA are getting a good President’ said Irish Independent GAA columnist Dermot Crowe. ‘A bright, straight, capable, ego light Uachtarán’. Aogán Ó Fearghail, Chairman of the Ulster Council and Principal of Maide Bán NS in Co Cavan was effusive on Liam’s elevation to the Presidency ‘Liam has already given significant service to the association in a range of roles over his lifetime of service’ he said. ‘I’m delighted for him, his club and his county on this significant honour’.
When it comes to the future of small schools in rural communities, Liam is unequivocal ‘Take away the school from a place like Trumera and the community no longer exists.
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When it comes to the future of small schools in rural communities, Liam is unequivocal ‘Take away the school from a place like Trumera and the community no longer exists. The GAA club would inevitably fold as well’ he said. The battle, he believes, is part of a larger conflict – a fight for the survival of rural Ireland. To highlight what can happen, he cites the nearby hamlet of Kilbricken, once a hive of activity centred around a train stop on the Cork – Dublin line from 1878 to 1976. The national school and a combined shop, pub and post office business all flourished but are now all PAG E 1 5
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Answering ‘The Call’ By Damian White, Principal Scoil Shinchill, Killeigh, Co. Offaly and Leadership+ Editor Niamh Bhreathnach did away with ‘The Call’. Just like that, with her big ministerial wand, she wiped out what every Irish father wanted for his daughter.The call to teacher training was almost biblical in its enormity. It set in train all sorts of events – letters containing fivers and tenners from proud aunts, a shopping expedition to buy cast iron knickers (or was that just Mary I?), strong walking shoes and other accoutrements on the legendary list as well as good wishes from neighbours and in some cases, praise from the pulpit.
Why then, after many years of the CAO filling positions in the training colleges based on Leaving Cert points only, is there a call for a return to some form of interview to select suitable candidates for a teaching career? Labour’s last minister for education before Ruairi Quinn had her reasons, I’m sure, for pulling the plug on an old tradition. Opening up the possibility of a primary teaching career to students from a wider cohort of backgrounds and beliefs was possibly chief among them. Why then, after many years of the CAO filling positions in the training colleges based on Leaving Cert points only, is there a call for a return to some form of interview to select suitable candidates for a teaching career? Is it an acknowledgement that a simple points achievement in the Leaving Cert is an improper way of determining whether a person is suitable for teaching? Or is it an acknowledgement that those who interviewed in previous times generally got it right? Did they also save many very bright people from committing to a career for which they would prove unsuitable? Thinking of this has brought me out in nostalgic goosebumps as I can clearly recall almost every
detail of my day in front of the forerunners to today’s X Factor judges. I’m not sure if Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh ever heard of Sr Cabrini (I still wonder if she was called after an Italian full back who missed a penalty in the 1982 World Cup Final) or Sr Angela. However, these icons of popular culture could learn from the sisters’ steely capacity to get things right when it came to sorting the corn from the chaff year upon year. More on nuns anon.
Thinking of this has brought me out in nostalgic goosebumps as I can clearly recall almost every detail of my day in front of the forerunners to today’s X Factor judges. My interview for Mary Immaculate College on a pleasant August day in 1984 was built up in my mind to be no more than a non competitive challenge match. My ‘C’ in honours Leaving Cert Irish and a decent but unremarkable set of other results meant that I was already resigned to parking my teaching ambitions in favour of Business in NIHE. I would go through the motions, enjoying the look around the college, and use the chance to find some digs around Monaleen. My business acumen would I’m sure have seen me as an ideal decision-maker in Anglo Irish Bank down the line. The format consisted of an interview in English and Gaeilge as well as music and singing tests with instrumental music an optional extra. There was no order in which one was expected to partake in these tests. You went where you saw a smaller queue. I carried with me a small button accordion on which I could play exactly 4 lines of what I’ve since learned is described as a ‘round’ called ‘Oh, can you wash your father’s shirt?’. For the same reason as always eating my cabbage first, I decided to queue at the door of Professor of Music, Nollaig Ó Ceallaigh, affectionately known as Noel Cheol. A very nice Waterford girl queued next to me, beautifully dressed as they all were that day. As PAG E 1 6
we were chatting, I couldn’t help noticing the quality of sound coming from Noel Cheol’s room. ‘Crikey, I’m not going in there after her’ I panicked – ‘you go ahead of me’. Suffice to say, Waterford piano playing was also of a very high standard. A cold sweat began to break out on my forehead – not helped when a Clare woman sat down beside me, carrying a cello. Noel Cheol looked out of his room at the queue of 2. ‘I’ll take one before lunch’, he sighed, ‘who’s next?’. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll not detain you’ I volunteered. ‘Very well’ he said, as he ushered me in. ‘What piece are you about to play’? Now I didn’t know my Mozart from my Beethoven but either of the two previous pieces I heard would have honoured either genius.‘Can you wash your father’s shirt?’ I muttered without looking up, as I fitted on my instrument and squeezed it. The little accordion belched out a sinister hiss and then groaned like a gander tangled up in sheep wire. I looked at Noel Cheol. He couldn’t be more startled if I was Jack Black playing Peigín Litir Mhór in death metal fashion. In my panic I decided to disguise how bad I was by playing the piece twice. At the end Noel shot me a look. ‘You haven’t been playing very long, have you?’ he expertly opined.
A cold sweat began to break out on my forehead – not helped when a Clare woman sat down beside me, carrying a cello. After conducting the ear test on me, he recorded the result, kindly sharing with me that I was ‘illiterate’ at both reading and writing music. Knowing that my musical signature would henceforth be merely an ‘x’ beside a staff, I strode purposefully to the singing room where my rendition of ‘Lord of the Dance’ was ‘viral’ 25 years before YouTube refashioned the term. The Gaeilge went a little better, though admitting that I thought the ‘fear siúil’ mentioned in the comprehension was a ‘walking man’ was a low point. Realising that I had probably blown all hope of ever becoming a teacher, I dolefully parked myself outside the office of the Registrar for the interview.
Opening the door to enter, I spotted chink of light. A smiling Sr Angela welcomed me warmly and sat me down. Now my talents were fairly threadbare – pitching square bales of hay and breaking the ball for small fast forwards to name both of them – but for some reason, I always got on very well with nuns. In my mind I was now throwing on two extra forwards in an all or nothing push for the line. In the course of a lively chat I expanded on my old small school, the flora and fauna of Clara Bog, the beauty of the Slieve Blooms and Offaly stopping Kerry’s 5 in a row bid. I squeezed in the helpful information that I read at Mass on Sundays, had an aunt and uncle in the teaching profession, and deftly mentioned my uncle the priest. The Pioneer pin, still in the autumn of its authentic existence in 1984, sat proudly on my lapel. I pitched myself as the embodiment of De Valera’s dream for an Irish master race, a shiny prince for comely maidens, and a purveyor of good thoughts and actions for the next 4 generations of sturdy athletic youths.
The three years in Mary I were the very best of times, with lifelong friendships forged over gaeltacht trips, panicked swotting and all manner of shenanigans.
The call, when it came, summoned wild celebrations in the White household, as it did, I’m sure in the 165 other households across
Six months after graduation, I called into the Alma Mater and bumped into Sr Cabrini. I was by this stage teaching in Kells, Co Meath.
Ciall Ceannaithe IPPN’s online course for Newly Appointed Principals and aspiring Principals
Munster and parts of Connaught from whence Mary Immaculate College mostly drew its intake at the time. Over the first few days in the college, I heard a few whispered giggles exclaiming – ‘That’s your man with the accordion – how did he get in’?
The three years in Mary I were the very best of times, with lifelong friendships forged over gaeltacht trips, panicked swotting and all manner of shenanigans. We limped over the graduation line ready to be released onto the unsuspecting school populace.
Ciall Ceannaithe – IPPN’s online Summer Course – has been developed to provide a greater understanding of the innovative solutions to challenges facing Principals. A highly practical step-by-step course built on the collective wisdom and experience of seasoned Principals. The course is designed to professionally support Newly Appointed Principals through the first day, first week, first month and first year of your principalship. It is also a very suitable refresher course for experienced Principals who wish to reflect on current practice.
‘Is there anyone in our class who hasn’t gotten work’? I enquired. ‘I’m always being asked if I know any subs’. She took me to her office and produced the 1984-87 class list. As she browsed down through them, she smiled as she passed over certain names, asking if I had heard from them recently. She stopped at a name. ‘She hasn’t a job yet’. ‘She was a very quiet girl’ she said in a tone I took to be slightly disapproving. ‘Gosh no Sister, she was great crack really’, I found myself saying. Over our friendly chat I figured that the nuns had been watching us far more closely than we realised. They took the responsibility of ordaining who got into teacher training seriously, and watched us grow from teens to young adults with a knowing and sometimes a mischievous eye. ‘Ye were a great lively bunch altogether’ she said, which I took as a compliment for our year. We bade each other good luck and I left there more affirmed than ever that I was truly glad I had answered ‘the call’. Luckily too, as the invention of the round bale rendered my other talent defunct.
Modules include: ● Accessing professional supports & key resources ● Getting started in your role ● What to do… what not to do! ● Scheduling priorities ● Good practice & timetabling for Teaching Principals
Course includes: ● 10 modules (20 hours of study) ● Fully interactive online lessons with audio/visual ● Discussion forum with expert moderators & facilitators ● Online reflective learning log ● Innovative technology-enhanced Learning
Registration: ● Course registration will be open in June with the course commencing in July ● Full details will be available on www.ippn.ie in the coming weeks ● Access to broadband is a necessity
For further information contact Jennifer McCarthy at email@example.com
PAG E 1 7
Homophobic bullying, suicide and the primary school By Gerard Farrelly, Principal of Goresbridge NS, Co. Kilkenny
John was a gentle, introverted young man who was twelve years old when he went home from school one Wednesday afternoon and, knowing that his mother and father would be at work until late afternoon, he hung himself by his school tie from the banisters and was found later by his older brother. At the inquest into John’s death it transpired that he had been repeatedly subjected to verbal taunts about his perceived sexuality. He had been called ‘gay boy’, ‘faggot’, ‘queer’,‘poof ’ and many other derogatory names for a number of years. Although hard to believe and accept, this began at a very young age in primary school and continued into his first year of secondary school. John was confused and had told his sister about how he was being treated at school. No-one else knew. He had been trying to ignore the comments but it reached the point when he could not cope anymore and became despairing. At this point he hung himself.
Bullying is a form of behaviour which I would think all primary school principals have knowledge and experience of, whether between children, staff, parents, ourselves or within our community. Fifteen year-old Dominic Crouch was driven to suicide last year after constant playground taunting that he was gay. He threw himself off the roof of a town car park. The tragedy was revisited when his heartbroken father, Roger, was found dead having taken his own life. Paul was 21 when he returned from the pub one afternoon, carefully and calmly folded his clothes on the river bank and walked into the river. He didn’t return. The taunting began in primary school. You name it, he was called it - ‘poofter’, ‘faggot’, ‘gayboy’; the list is endless. I know because we were friends growing up. His heartbroken parents and brother have never got over it. It is something I have never forgotten. Rod Stewart once said in his song the ‘Killing of Georgie’ – ‘He was gay I guess, nothing more and nothing less.’
The fact that Paul, Dominic and John were in secondary school when they took their own lives is to be treated with some circumspection. These young men began their short lives in a primary school like the ones we manage every day. Their experience of primary school may have been what we expect it to be but then again it may not.
and non-aggressive mode. With the advent of the internet and an increasingly advanced technological age, children are more than aware about sex and sexuality, including homosexuality, and the language associated with it, both positive and negative. Contrary to popular opinion, children understand a lot more than they are given credit for.
It’s possibly quite hard to imagine that forms of bullying such as homophobic bullying are relevant in the context of the Irish primary school.
Language used in a derogatory way and directed towards children can result in serious detrimental emotional harm and this is often carried forward into adulthood. International research endorses the view that children who experience homophobic bullying can have extraordinary difficulties creating and sustaining relationships as is the case with other forms of bulling, but with homophobic bullying it can be even more extreme. They can become withdrawn, aggressive and schoolphobic and often experience suicidal ideation from a very young age. For some children it can be unbearable and sadly they choose to end their own lives. There are many different signs and symptoms which need to be recognised.
Bullying is a form of behaviour which I would think all primary school principals have knowledge and experience of, whether between children, staff, parents, ourselves or within our community. There are so many different definitions of what constitutes ‘bullying behaviour’ and there are many different aspects of behaviour involved. Bullying may be emotional, psychological, physical, verbal or sexual in nature and may encompass one or more of these categories. Often bullying is associated with an abuse of power where one person or more holds power over another in some way. Many theorists have expounded as to the reasons why and how human beings engage in such behaviour and I’m sure we all have our own theories too, but from a very early age we know that children will hurt each other through bullying behaviour and that it is also possible to find bullying behaviour amongst adults, both inside and outside our schools. It’s possibly quite hard to imagine that forms of bullying such as homophobic bullying are relevant in the context of the Irish primary school.You often hear that it is not possible for children this young to understand what is said to them and therefore it is not hurtful. However, I believe there is no doubt that children in our schools are, to a lesser or greater extent, experiencing and using language of a sexual nature which can be directed towards others in both an aggressive PAG E 1 8
Language used in a derogatory way and directed towards children can result in serious detrimental emotional harm and this is often carried forward into adulthood. I’m not advocating that principals act as psychologists or psychiatrists; just that we become more aware. Bullying is such a difficult thing to understand and to deal with. School policies on bullying invariably do not allude to this form of sexualised bullying because it is something we would associate with secondary schools and something we are perhaps wary of. I will discuss my own doctoral research on this subject in the next issue of Leadership+.
From Teaching to Admin Principalship – a journey to the dark side! By Micheál Rea, Principal, Little Island NS, Cork
I always said when I was Principal of Walterstown NS in Cobh, also known as the Great Island, that I had the best job in the world. I had the opportunity to work with a great staff and wonderful children every day and I was mostly doing what I am qualified to do – teach. Why then did I apply for and take up an Admin role in Little Island NS? I haven’t managed to come up with an answer that is completely accurate yet. Little Island is closer to home but not by much. I don’t have the stress of trying to do two jobs but I never found it that stressful in Walterstown. I felt it was time for a new challenge but I still had plans for Walterstown that I didn’t get to implement. There was also the knowledge that there would be lots of jobs coming up between summer 2011 and spring 2012 so there was a certain pressure (in my head) to make a decision to stay or to move on, knowing that there might not be the same number of opportunities again for a number of years. I had been to visit Little Island NS once and I had come across their All Blacks during Sciath na Scol matches but other than that I had limited knowledge of the school or the area.
to medium size schools would have loads of time to do all the things that I felt guilty about not doing as a Teaching Principal but, guess what? There is still not enough time in the day! As an Admin Principal you are seen to be more readily available so there are more interruptions. My aim is always to prioritise people over paper and as such I leave myself open to interruptions. It works for me so hopefully it will work for the school too. My most productive (in the sense of ticking boxes) time of the day is still after school – 3.30pm to 4.30pm – so there is no leaving school early! I am starting to get to grips with the pattern and flow of the days and weeks so I am learning to take advantage of the quiet times and thus manage the busier times. Ultimately, while my current position has challenges, if I had to teach a class as well it would be very hard so my job now is easier. At this stage of the year I am very happy with my new school and have a great team around me to drive the school forward through the challenges that the external agencies will impose. I am lucky to have found another school where I still feel that I have the greatest job in the world!
It is one thing to think about moving but actually moving is another matter. Trying to explain why you are going is very hard. I loved my time in Walterstown and it was like leaving home. To imply that I was getting a promotion would have been wrong because what does that say about my old school? There would be a step up in workload and allowance but the value of the job or the school can’t be tied up in that. Moving out physically was difficult too.There is so much stuff that is tied up and intertwined that it is difficult to unpick yourself from that.The hardest part was the physical act of handing over the key to the school.That act symbolised all that I was leaving behind. What was I doing? I was to officially start on September 1st but there was building work going on that had to be finished by the end of the summer which was like being pushed in at the deep end! My first introduction to the staff was to ask their help in cleaning up and moving into the new extension. They were fantastic and the support that they provided really gave me a boost. There was no time for the whole idea of changing nothing for a year and making haste slowly. It all came together and there was a sense of unity of purpose which was great. After all the children and teachers were safely set up in their classes I had to get to grips with all the new names and the information. I had built up a store of contacts and knowledge in Walterstown but I had to start all over again. Our secretary was (and continues to be) brilliant and patient. Everything from paper clips to enrolment forms had to be asked for. Luckily, Damien Irwin, the previous Principal, had put very good systems in place so, once I figured those out, I was up and running.The other local Principals have made me feel welcome and their support has also helped with the transition. Which role is better- Teaching Principal or Admin Principal? The daily contact with children would have always helped to give me perspective and keep me focussed on the teaching and learning. I was trained to teach and that special relationship between a class teacher and their class is something I miss. I always thought that Administrative Principals of small PAG E 1 9
www.ippn.ie – Latest resources SUPPORTS & SERVICES
POLICIES & PLANS
DES CIRCULARS ● 0007/2012 - Staffing arrangements in Primary Schools for the 2012/13 school year ● 0003/2012 - Budget 2012 – Public ServiceWide Review of Allowances and Premium Payments/ Buiséad 2012 – Athbhreithniú tríd síos na Seirbhíse Poiblí ar Liúntais agus Íocaíochtaí Préimhe
RECRUITMENT ● Teachers ■ Teacher Induction Pack ■ Substitute Teacher - Information Sheet ■ Statutory Declaration & Form of Undertaking
● Lent – Family Prayer Service ● NEWB - Letter to Parents ● Media Consent Form SUITABLE PRAYERS, SONGS, HYMNS ETC ● Confirmation Mass Booklet II
POLICY & NEWS PARENTS AND PUPILS ● Lent Calendar
LEADERSHIP+ ● Leadership+ Issue 67 - March 2012
On your behalf Since the last issue of Leadership+, IPPN met with the DES, education agencies and other bodies in relation to the following:
MARCH: ● IPPN past President Pat Goff chaired the National Consultative Forum of the NCSE in relation to two initiatives: a. to develop a ‘Code of Practice to guide educational placements for children with Special Educational Needs’ and b. to guide ‘NCSE policy on supporting children with Special Needs’. ● IPPN was asked by the Chief Inspector to address the Inspectorate’s annual two- day conference on the topic of Principals’ perspectives of the role of inspectors when conducting WSEs and Incidental Visits ● There was a further meeting with the NEWB regarding the Mapping of Best Practice Project. The project work-stream has been established to capture good practice across the existing three services within NEWB. This will make an important contribution to developing future services by: - validating staff knowledge and experience – building on what works in existing practice - empowering staff and key stakeholders to define new service models –and contribute to the design of the new ways of working. This project will give staff the opportunity to share their experience and use this to design services in the future. IPPN President Gerry Murphy is involved with NEWB on this mapping project. ● IPPN was represented at a consultation meeting with the DES Inspectorate in relation to a new model of inspection called Whole School Evaluation - Management, Leadership and Learning. (WSEMLL). This model will concentrate on evaluating teaching and learning in the classroom, with less emphasis on documentation. The timeframe for the completion of WSE –MLL will be shorter than for WSE and it will be trialled in a number of schools in the third term. ● NUI Maynooth in relation to student placement. IPPN is represented on a working group, hosted by the Teaching Council, to draw up guidelines for the placement of student teachers in schools. The longer timeframe for Initial Teacher Education will necessitate longer periods of student teacher placement. The aim of the guidelines is to ensure that placement provides a positive professional experience for student teachers together with considerable advantages for the host school and the co-operating teachers. ● Angela Lynch represented IPPN at a Children’s Mental Health Coalition seminar attended by Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children. Cross-departmental guidelines and strategies relating to the mental health of children, both at primary and second level were discussed and recommendations made for drawing up these guidelines. There was universal recognition that an integrated
approach across agencies was essential in the delivery of services to young people. ● HSE Childcare Children’s Services Committee (CSC). IPPN is represented on a number of county CSCs. There are currently 16 County/Local CSCs. This will grow to 26. CSC - National Outcomes
Sample Priority Areas
● Healthy, both physically and mentally
● Young people’s mental health
● Supported in active learning
● Life-long learning
● Safe from accidental and intentional harm / ● Secure in the immediate and wider physical environment
● ● ● ●
● Economically secure
● Children at risk from poverty
● Part of positive networks of family, friends, neighbours and the community ● Included and participating in society
● Family support networks ● Impact of domestic violence
Drug & alcohol response Adolescents at risk Children First implementation Youth homelessness
APRIL/MAY ● Meeting with Junior Minister for Innovation Seán Sherlock. ● IPPN presentation to newly-appointed principals at Misneach in Ennis. ● Facilitation of a Teaching Principals’ Clinic at the Monaghan Education Centre. ● NEWB seminar ‘Leading in a time of Challenge’ for leaders of DEIS primary and post-primary schools . ● IPPN represented at: ■ INTO Congress in Killarney ■ Joint Managerial Body (JMB) Annual Conference ■ the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers - North of Ireland ■ CPMSA Annual Conference.
OTHER NEWS ● Brendan McCabe, IPPN Deputy President, was recently named by the minister as his nominee to the Teaching Council. The appointment is for a three-year term. We wish Brendan well in this challenging role.
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The effects of new transport policies on small minority schools By Beth Burns, Deputy Principal of Scoil Naisiunta Cuil an tSudaire 2, Portarlington, Co Laois On Monday 13th February I attended an impressively large meeting of over 400 hundred teachers in the Tullamore Court Hotel in Offaly. The aim of this meeting was to emphasise our opposition to the government’s decision to increase class sizes in our one to four teacher schools. The Principals from two, three and four teacher schools all delivered a very similar message about the importance of the small school in their community. They highlighted the vitality of their school as a focal point for gaelic football, hurling, clubs, First Communion and other community activities. As a Church of Ireland parent of children attending a minority school of that ethos, I also have concerns about the transportation service available at present for my children. Minority schools located all over Ireland, mostly Church of Ireland but of other faiths also, provide a focal point for our communities. As members of the
Church of Ireland we appreciate the important role of our schools in maintaining our ethos. Our schools also establish a huge sense of community spirit. The pupils attending Church of Ireland schools look forward to attending their clubs together and meeting at Sunday Worship. Our school communities extend across large geographical areas. In previous years, many one teacher Church of Ireland schools were amalgamated to create larger and more sustainable schools. To accommodate these amalgamations, school bus services were established to provide transport from the “closed” school areas to the larger central school. Now this transport service is under serious threat, the main reason being that the government is committed to removing bus routes serving fewer than ten pupils and this will put ever-increasing pressure on the service. I would like to make Principals, especially those in rural/village areas, aware of the difficulties Church of Ireland schools have had in maintaining
our schools. Our schools serve smaller communities and so will be small themselves. In a pluralist Ireland we feel our distinctive ethos is worth keeping. Parents who have recently moved to an area may be unaware of the nearest Church of Ireland school. I am aware that boards of management cannot turn away pupils wishing to enrol in your school. However, if the applicant is of the Church of Ireland faith and there is a school of that ethos in the area, it might be possible to suggest that the parents look to secure a place in that school. If they are unsuccessful, the parents could return to your school and apply to enrol for a place. Due to new policies in relation to school bus routes, services are in danger of being removed if pupils do not avail of them. If this happens, minority schools will be under immense pressure to maintain their ethos and therefore numbers will decrease with eventual closure which will further reduce parental choice.
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PAG E 2 1
Class Allocation Best Practice For many Principals the annual challenge of deciding which teachers will teach which classes can prove problematic. Each year there are many enquiries to the Support Office seeking advice and guidance in this critical aspect of a Principal’s role. Other than the wisdom needed to recruit the best people, the skill of allocating teachers to the various teaching roles is probably the most important function a principal has in determining the quality of learning in the school. The team available to you is all you have; the skill is in how you balance the team for the year ahead, with a key priority the quality of the education provided. The key to getting this right is to start the process early, consult with everyone, encourage staff to think in cycles of two to four years and, above all, to treat everyone with professional fairness and personal respect. The Principal’s Role Section 22 of the Education Act sets out clearly the ‘Functions of the Principal and teachers’, stating that ‘in the case of the Principal…carry out those duties that are assigned to him or her by the Board’ and that… ‘teachers shall carry out those duties…. that are assigned to them by or at the direction of the Principal’. Circular 16/1973 states that the Principal ‘should arrange a fair distribution of teaching duties among the staff, taking into account the needs of the pupils and the abilities, experience, personality and preference of each teacher. He/she should utilise the services of staff with special qualifications or aptitudes in an organising or advisory capacity.’ While class allocation is unequivocally within the remit of the Principal, a Board may challenge a Principal’s decision where: 1. due process is not followed e.g. no meaningful consultation; radical unnecessary last minute changes 2. perverse decisions are made e.g. going against established education best practice without good reason; consistently refusing to offer an individual staff member an opportunity to experience other roles where such opportunities exist 3. decisions are based on a vindictive motive e.g. where there is obvious discrimination against a staff member for personal reasons. Other than these three exceptions, a Board cannot interfere with a Principal’s function to allocate classes as it is central to the school leadership role. Best Practice The following approach to the class allocation decision-making process is both transparent and informative to those concerned. Information ● Remind teachers, parents and Board of Management members that class allocation is a function of the Principal. Refer to the Education Act 1998 (Section 22) and Circular 16/1973. ● Teacher seniority and/or holding a post of
● ● ●
responsibility does not give any staff member any additional rights or priorities when it comes to the allocation of teachers to classes. Facilitate a whole staff discussion on staff rotation, including the following points: The professional value and benefit of all teachers acquiring an understanding of the curriculum across all levels in the context of whole school planning and the cohesive teaching of the revised curriculum Rotation is important for staff motivation and professional development It is counter-productive to allocate the same class to a staff member for prolonged periods Generally accepted wisdom that new teachers should not be required to teach Junior Infants during their induction period.
Consultation ● It is important to clarify how classes will be divided for the next school year. In larger schools, a decision may be made to have a smaller number of pupils in Infant classes and a larger number in senior years, which may include the need to have multi-grade classes. In smaller schools where there is a necessity to have multi-grade classes, it is useful to consult with teachers as regards the most appropriate division of classes. ● Circulate a sheet to teachers and ask them to indicate their teaching preferences for the subsequent school year. They should indicate their first, second and third preference. The sheet circulated should offer the various options from Junior Infants to Sixth Class in addition to various learning support, resource teaching roles.Where possible it should list the exact division of classes as planned for the next school year with the details of numbers of children and the breakdown of class levels. ● Discuss with each teacher individually the reasons for their preferences and the various background issues which may be relevant. Decision ● Bear in mind factors such as the educational needs of a group of children or of a specific child within a group; teacher preference; experience; suitability of teaching style; the length of time a particular teacher has taught a specific class level/carried out a particular role e.g. learning support; the length of time teachers have spent in unsuitable accommodation such as prefabs; extracurricular talents and attributes. ● Once you have made your decision, it is important to inform each teacher of his or her allocation of class for the coming year. ● Inevitably some teachers will not get their preference in a given year. Keeping a simple record of teaching preferences and actual allocation each year will help to ensure that a fair approach is taken. ● Some schools have a policy of informing parents about the allocation of teachers to classes in advance of the school holidays or PAG E 2 2
on the day of the school holidays. Others inform parents on return to school in September. There are merits and demerits for either option. Teaching Principals ● One of the key recommendations of The HayGroup Report on The Role of Primary Principal in Ireland is the importance of Teaching Principals allocating to themselves a teaching workload which reflects the dual role of principal and class teacher. ● From September 2012, Principals are no longer precluded from taking on the role of learning support/resource teacher, which IPPN contends is the best option for Teaching Principals. ● More and more Teaching Principals have refrained from teaching the senior classes of the school, owing to the significant additional work involved in the preparation of pupils for the transfer to post primary school and, in many cases,the preparation for sacraments and other end-of school events. Others allocate themselves a single grade class e.g. Rang 3 or Rang 4. Teaching colleagues may as a direct consequence have somewhat larger classes. This is a direct reflection of one of the HayGroup recommendations. Other Considerations ● This process should not be left until the end of the school year. Ideally it should be commenced well before Easter and substantially completed by the middle of June. Leaving a period of time between the initial request for class preference, consultation and decision is a useful way of preparing people for change. ● It is not a good idea to impose radical change on a teacher who has taught the same class level for several years or even decades. In such an instance, conflict can be best avoided by informing the teacher that, while he or she will get their choice of class this year, they will not be teaching that class level the next year and that they will have a year to prepare for that change. Encouraging teachers to consult with colleagues and perhaps to undertake team teaching for a limited period of time will prepare teachers for an impending change. ● If moving from a situation of little or no change from year to year,limited rotation may be all that is possible or indeed wise within the first year or two. Gradual rather than radical change is often the most sustainable in the long run. Diaidh are dhiaidh is ea déantar an caisleán. The time and effort put into the allocation of classes in a way that is transparent and accountable is more than rewarded in terms of its benefit for overall staff, teamwork and harmony. A sample Class Preference Sheet is available in the Policies & Plans – Administration section of www.ippn.ie.
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to June. e from August lif a r fo e tim You have no says, next person who your e th p sla to t You wan 3 and have work from 9 to ‘Must be nice to summers free!’
How many teachers does it take to change a light-bulb?
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Well hang on a minute! You can't go changing a light-bulb just like that.You need a plan - long, medium and short-term - or your method of changing the bulb will be in question. And of course, you need to be very clear what you are trying to achieve by changing it - that will need writing down and handing out to anybody who happens to be watching you change the light-bulb. Objectives are important. Furthermore, some account will need to be made for the fact that the light bulb may not be very bright – you must allow for differentiation.You will also need to spend time assessing your procedure after the event, with a clear emphasis on taking the bulb-changing process to the next stage. Oh and don’t forget to write it up in your cúntas míosúil!
someone n slammed by sio es of pr ur yo d You’ve ever ha g your job. r dream of doin ve ne ld ou w who answers the parents instantly ’s ild ch a g tin Mee is?’ is this kid like th question, ‘Why ld have its annoying’ shou y el m re xt ‘e ve You belie e report card. own box on th
Teacher: Billy, name two pronouns. Billy: Who, me? Teacher: Well done!
IPPN’s Annual Deputy Principals’ Conference Two heads are better than one Giorraíonn beirt bother CITYWEST HOTEL & CONFERENCE CENTRE, DUBLIN
Thursday evening 10th May and Friday 11th May See www.ippn.ie for further details PAG E 2 3