Education News: Mid-March 2024

In this episode, I wonder about the quantum of SET agendas and why the IPPN has decided to go against its members. I discuss why the media have reduced a completely changed curriculum down to sex. Finally I deny that I’ve been looking through your bins. Links to articles discussed can be found on

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Hello? Hello. You're very welcome to if I were the minister for education, a regular podcast, where I look into the world of primary education and let you know what I would do. If I were the minister for education.

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This is Simon Lewis on this week's show. I'll be continuing to explore the fiasco that isn't going away, which has set allocations as the IPPN turn on its own members.

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And speaking of things that won't go away, I'll be exploring the new primary curriculum where it has reentered the new stories for, I don't know how many times and I'll be talking about how teachers will now be expected to teach languages they don't speak themselves. If you're interested in subscribing to this podcast, or if you're watching it on YouTube, you can subscribe by going to your favorite podcasting platform to subscribe. Or you can go into YouTube and you can clip and lightened, subscribe, whatever. People do, is it smash that like button? I don't know what young people say. I say that every week, anyway, let's get on with things. And as you'll see on the screen, if you're watching on on YouTube it you'll see the title and screenshot is an attempt to explain special education in Ireland. And if I can achieve that. It will be doing very well because if you've been following the set allocation model story over the last number of weeks, You'll probably understand how difficult it is to understand and it was only when I spoke to a journalist at that, I realized that there's a lot that we take for granted in schools. I said, I, in my first sentence, in this article, I wrote on my medium blog that Simon M You can. I started off by saying if you're a primary school teacher, These acronyms probably make complete sense to you. S C N O S C T S P S E S C S P H G. And so on all of these acronyms, beginning with S. And they probably make a lot of sense, but they probably don't make a lot of sense to anyone outside of the primary education system. And when I was speaking to a journalist about the initial as S. Initially talking to them about special education. It was amazing how. I confusing things. God, because he didn't really understand what the difference between a special class teacher is a special education teacher is and what a special needs assistant is and why there are no teaching assistants in our, and even though he's heard about teaching assistants, which funnily enough, there's a college course in Ireland. If you wanted to look it up hoping to train you as a teaching assistant, despite there not being a teaching assistant job in Ireland in primary schools, at least. And it got me thinking about this whole debacle about the sat allocations model. And there's been so many news stories over the last couple of weeks around set allegations, basically, just in case you are living under a rock, if you're a primary school teacher, or if you just haven't heard about the story. About a month ago. At the department of education released their allocations to schools for special education teachers. And There was opera because they essentially. I suppose in a nutshell, they have basically decided that all teachers are going to be decided special education teacher is going to be decided on three criteria, three criteria. Only one of them is okay, it's on whether this goes in a disadvantaged area or not, but the other two, and the major criteria that 94% of the criteria is going on your enrollment, which makes a bit of sense, but also based on literacy and numeracy scores that children would have received over the last three years. Now for anyone who's involved in education, you will know that standard standardized tests in literacy and numeracy are not something that we take very seriously as a profession. We have to do them, but we understand their limitations. In fact, we understand them so much that we take very little heat of the results that we get often don't correlate with how well the children are doing. They are a snapshot essentially on one day. But the big talking point really was one of the criteria that was removed from sat allocations. And for 2024 was the complex needs variable, which counted for about 50% of allocations given up until last year And the removal of that meant that children with complex needs. Are not necessarily going to be allocated resources. And it's a huge bone of contention so much so that inclusion Ireland down syndrome Ireland. And as I am got to gather to. Make a joint. Statement or a joint campaign. After them to be returned. And, principals around the countries, teachers around the country were going absolutely not about this as well, because effectively what happens is that children with complex needs may not necessarily gash low standardized test scores. It actually, in some ways it's quite insulting to children with complex needs. They're basically saying we couldn't get the data on complex needs. So we just use your literacy numeracy scores because you're probably going to get low test results anyway, because you have complex needs. It's frankly, baffling, really? That this would be the case. And obviously the advocacy groups are saying that it is baffling as well, that they would do this. And we were waiting for, education groups to come along and say, yeah, this is ridiculous. It's bad. It's not working. And they didn't. So the national principal's forum, if you I'm involved with, as a questionnaire or a survey to principals and sure enough. Principals were aggrieved by this and I'm not happy about it. So we decided to to do a petition joining the other campaigners that were out there. And. 700, roughly 700 principals or school. Basically signs petition and it was sent to anyone and everyone. And it's been bizarre the outcome of this. Because not only not only the department of education dispute the accuracy of the principles, they actually went through every single line, every single school and. It's so desperate and patchy. And pathetic. That they went through every single line rather than actually sorting out the problem. They decided to try and undermine this petition. I wonder, I always wonder because the other three advocacy groups had exactly the same thing. They had 1300 signatories, and I wonder if they would go through all those 1300 signatories and basically say, oh it's, up two of those, two or three of those signatures came from the same house and all. Yeah. And these, I buy five of them, came from a different school from the same school. So clear, like the way the department of education. Are measuring these set allocations is they have this odd thing where they think the only reason a school would be annoyed about the sat allocations was because they themselves would be losing hours. Not because the system is based on junk data. And I think this is what the problem is. The basically sat allocations when they were introduced in 2017 were based on five different criteria and the five Griffin criteria, where were. Basically set what your what they, what your allocations would be. And since then, they've been. Manipulator, changed slightly depending on who you are and developing skills were badly treated. And we have to data on that. But schools that we're losing in Romans, In order to avoid a political kind of fallout. They kept ours. And essentially what we ended up with just junk data. And by 2024, what we have is we're using junk data. And then adding further junk data and ultimately the allocations are meaningless and they don't actually meet. They don't actually provide schools with what they need. And we thought. Oh, fair enough. The department of education. Are going to try and put this, run this under the carpet or whatever people do, but then in a weird, in the most baffling I've never seen this before. The principals. I feel APPM, which is the principals network. Have actually turned on their own members in a statement, they made a joint statement to joint communication with the NAPD. And I've no idea why they're involved. They're a secondary school organization and this has nothing to do with secondaries and the NPC they've turned on their parents. They're the national parents council. They basically. I have called the calls from advocacy groups and a national trend forum. That it's misinformation or miscommunication or misconceptions or the kind of blue. Bluff words that are used by organizations. It's astonishing. And you wouldn't mind. If they're joint communication or they're basically essentially saying that you're all wrong was based on any communication with their own members. But they didn't consult with any of their members DM. Advocacy groups. I consulted with their members. They got. It's 1300 signatures to a petition to asking people, asking for this set of locations to be paused under national principal's forum asked all schools about their opinions and got all the data and then asked for a petition, the IPP. And didn't ask anyone. And to be honest with you, We don't know. Where this is coming from, this is a very odd situation. And it really. I think has baffled. And many people involved in education and. I think. Everybody suspects. The IBP and our January. A good organization there. They're lovely people in there. I know them. Some of them are my friends. And then they come out with this and nobody knows why. And it's interesting. They came out with it, but didn't refer to it again. They didn't they didn't tweet it. They usually will tweet their joint communications. They didn't tweezers. They also didn't add it to their weekly newsletter to the center to newspapers. I it's just a very odd and baffling kind of communication and that nobody quite understands why the suspicion really is dash. They were, they are reliant on funding from the department of education. So maybe they were told that they needed to refuse and the calls look who knows it's a really odd situation. And one I'm sure we'll be returning to at some point, because I don't think this story is going to go away and I'm really not quite sure what is going on there. But I just wanted to talk to you a little bit more about an article I wrote on us because it's basically, trying to defend the sat allocations. Could we all be wrong? That's what it's called. And it goes through. Essentially what's been going on with the IPN and the NAPD. And why do I think. They why do I think they did what they did? And why are they trying to bury the story about the department of education's decision to provide, use junk data? Remove complex needs. As a variable. In order to give sat allocations and why they would defend and advise schools. Th the other thing I suppose I should mention is. Lots and lots of people have written to the IPN to protest there. Or to complain about the way they've David they've handled the situation and they have a template email, which they're sending out to people which advises them to go through. The appeals mechanism. At despite, and the fact that the appeals mechanism is horrendous as well. And it just surprises me. That an organization I've had. I have a lot of time for, and I've had a lot of time for in fact, I was on their board for a short time. Has reduced themselves. To effectively being spokespeople for the department of education. I don't know. I did. I suppose I did a little graph of how many people at basically. Contacted. Gave their feedback to the national principal's forum versus those who gave feedback to the IPN. And you will see the graph there. Which is, maybe just a bit of a joke, but I'm quite serious too. Yeah, I link in this article that she should find again on the medium blog. I've linked to full statement there, which you might have a look at. But they have said an outrageous sort of statement to me and they said it's important to be clear that children with complex needs have not been excluded from the allocation of hours that schools are received. They have, and I put this fallacy to bed from 2017 to 2022. The sat allocations were calculated under five criteria and I list those and then three criteria now, which is. And the two criteria that have are missing from those five. Our gender and complex needs data. The department education even admitted themselves that they dropped complex needs as a criteria because they couldn't get the data from anywhere. And they decided they would increase the weighting of literacy and numeracy scores. Now. I'm spending a bit of time here because I can't understand. W. Y the IPN have done what they've done. Is it that they're really out of touch that they don't understand children with complex needs can and often do score highly interested in numeracy tests because I could get it. I can get if they are. Out of touch the classroom has changed so much in the last decade. And most of the principals in the offices or at most of the people in the office working for IPP and are retired Principles or haven't been in the, in a school for quite some time. I, I get that I haven't been, I haven't been teaching directly for the for about 10 years now. And I know that when I go into classrooms to take lessons, The costume is definitely a different, it's a different place than it used to be. Even in the short space of time that I was there. I often say like that when I was teaching last time I taught, I probably made two phone calls a year to parents about issues in the classroom. I know the parent or the teachers are making two phone calls a day, in terms of things that go on in classrooms. So maybe there. To be there. There's so long outside of the classroom. That they aren't, they actually don't understand what's going on in classrooms. I don't know. But I suppose what really, I. Generally, generally the people, I think young people get in there with triggering language. But if you want to trigger me. There's plenty of ways you can do so you can tell your, you can call your school inclusive or very inclusive, or you can, when you talk about special education needs, you can say pupils with the greatest levels of need should now have access to the greatest level of support in. This really annoys me and it annoys. Actually a noise, anyone working in a school because you'll hear that. Statements used by people in the NCSC, people in naps, people, in the department of education. And now our own representative body are using this really awful line. The pupils have the greatest level of need should have access to the greatest avenues of support. If you want to translate that sentence into English out, if you want to translate it away from spin into English, into normal English language. That sentence means that children with needs, what you're saying here is that schools will choose what children do not get access to support. So all your children with. That have support needs will not receive. Support only the ones with the greatest level of needs. So in other words, children, with the least level of needs will get. Despite having needs will not have any support. That's all it's saying, essentially when people say that to me, I always ask them. So you're asking me to choose which children who have needs don't get support and they laugh. Because they don't care. And isn't it awful to see your representative body using that sort of language? It's awful. It's really awful. And. They go on to explain. To us. Why we're wrong? And using baffling language. And there's a little word in here. I love. And I have to tell you about it. I read it given that the revised allocation model is now underpinned by more accurate data provided by schools. It is hoped that a quantum of hours allocation to schools will better enable children with additional and complex need to achieve and thrive in their mainstream settings. Quantum of what. Quantum, it's such a baffling word. Why would they what person. What person uses the word quantum in everyday language. Nobody has the answer to that question, but they've used three times in their. A sentence. So I decided I'd check out what's what does quantum mean? So I looked up. A few dictionaries and I find my favorite one, which is a it's the smallest amount. It's basically, it's a science word it's used in physics really, and chemistry and stuff like that. It's these insights not used in allocating resources to children in schools, but it's actually the smallest amount. Or units of something, especially in GI. I like to condense that to the smallest amount of energy. And that could equally define the level of representation. That the IPN are giving to their members in this case. But I just want to back up a little bit, because I thought that where quantum is very distracting and maybe deliberately. What I wanted to look at here was this thing about the revised allocation is being underpinned by more accurate data. So what is this accurate data? And they both use this, the IPN and the department of education aping, the same language. Accurate data, the accurate data. And I'll tell you what they are. It's enrollment figures and standardized scores. That's it. There is no other data being used. And those two pieces of data do not provide accurate needs for a school. And. They just. It's just annoying, really to hear your representative body behaving. Like this, and I don't really understand, and it's not just me. It's not just the national principals or it's not just the advocacy groups. It's not just us. There's plenty of people and I'm just going to go through. I just pasted three tweets or tweet Twitter threads or X threads from other principals or people involved in education. And it's. It just goes to show, these, this is just people who are online and unable to comment. I've spoken to several principals who who just are shocked. People are just baffled. And nobody can quite understand this. Essentially. What can we do? I just don't know what we can do about it. And I suppose the irony and I conclude, and I will conclude with this taught, is that on the same on the day after. Dash DIPP and released the statement basically. Throwing their members under the bus. They also shared this a really good article from their vice CEO their. Their deputy CEO. Which has been published in the education yearbook, a fantastic journal titled the health and wellbeing of Irish school leaders. And this article essentially shows the burnout, stress, sleeping, troubles, depressive symptoms, somatic stress, and cognitive stress have all increased in principles since 2015, all the way up to 2022 and all of the conclusions state that it's getting worse and worse. And in fact, we know that principals of primary schools. As our suffering. Are suffering. Certain forms of stress and burnish. Twice the normal rate of most other jobs. And isn't it ironic that when 700 or more of their members make a public cry for help, the response was to tell them. That we were wrong. Let's move on. It's the new primary, correct? Lamont. Geno wash when you've got a new primary curriculum, which teaches all the new subjects of all let's reduce to a headline sax. Yeah. It's all about sex education to be taught at an earlier age now. Under new primary curriculum that's from the Irish times and today, a fam also headlined with sex, sex sells on sex education in Ireland. And. And of the maddening thing I suppose, is that really that's the headline. And it's quite frustrating because sex. The actual truth of that story is the puberty will be taught in third and fourth class rather than in fifth and sixth class. And do you know why? Because children in third and fourth cost experience puberty, probably good idea for them to know what's going on there. That's the only change. And that's the headline. There is much, much bigger and bigger stories. Really, and they were actually well-developed. And well-spoken about by Carla Brian the next day when he discussed what was actually changing. And it's a really good article. I'd recommend you look at it. It'll be in the show notes. And we'll be talking about learning a new foreign languages. Stem will be a subject in the curriculum. And also a lot more on wellbeing. It's a lot to squeeze he says under absolutely. That's true. So he decides that it's funny, so much more to squeeze, so we will be reducing religious instruction. It's about a half an hour, a week, so we can fit in all this extra stuff. And I'm not going to go on about religion and the role of religion in schools. If there's actually a really good Latter from David Graham. And the Irish times, which I, which is in our, in my Fiddy link. Where he talks about at what the impact of that will be. I eat none. And in fact, I would argue that it's cements the road of faith formation and religious segregation. In skills for another generation. But as I said, I don't really want to go on too much about us. As I said there. Carla Brian talks about the different flashpoints. He talks about sex education thing. And in fairness to him, he does clarify that it really. Is just puberty. The folks in foreign languages. It a weird one. This one, I think foreign languages are going to be taught. By class teachers, whether or not they speak a foreign language, which is an interesting one. I'm going to be brushing up on my stuff. And my Lithuanian. And probably is going to try and learn some Portuguese as well. I don't know. Look I'm really unsure about how this is going to work. I've been asking people online about this in Scotland. Apparently this is. Fine apparel. I spoke to a teacher in Scotland. Who's been teaching Italian for the last few years, despite not speaking Italian. And you said to works out. So look, I'm going to. Despite being a bit cynical about it. I am going to obviously find out a little bit more because I don't actually know how to teach a foreign language if you don't speak that foreign language. I guess if it's happening in Scotland, it must be possible. I, and it may be happening in other countries as well. I don't know. So look, that's one change. The other changes that are happening to the curriculum, which aren't being widely reported particularly in this article or others is technology is a new subject in the curriculum. And I have argued for years that I would not like to see technology as a subject. I like it as a methodology, but it is going to be part of the stem as a subject. Not a lot known about it yet. So maybe that's why and there will be consultations on us where we don't know whether we are going to be teaching children, computational thinking, which might be better than teaching them coding. They're not the same thing. But I do know that the, the little, a small news story that happened. Was it as good as they're all going to be giving coding kits by something called tech tips or is it ICD tips? Sorry. A project in Trinity college. So I don't know. If it's anything to give us a heads up about, if we're going to be teaching coding to children, That's yet another foreign language I'd suggest that will be expected to teach, having no knowledge of the subject. Or have the language ourselves. Other things coming into the new curriculum. I suppose we, it says we've only seven subjects, but in reality, we're adding lots of new subjects into the curriculum. As I said, the wellbeing thing, which has been. Which has been reduced down to sex education, there's a lot more going on in the wellbeing thing and it's actually a good, I'm, people would probably accuse me of being negative all the time. But actually I think the I don't like the word wellbeing and. But for the purposes of the of calling. Subject something I'll take wellbeing. I can't think of a better word. So I suppose I'll dive into that, but there's some really good stuff. We're allowing, I suppose what wellbeing had basically is S P H G, and that was given half an hour a week and we were expected to cover. Everything from internet safety to sex education. To substance and abuse prevention. To staying safe to, anything and everything that was to do with to do basically stuff that parents used to do with their children. We are now covering in schools. That's probably a cynical thing to say because I'm not fair. I'm sorry for saying that. I think a lot of the stuff that, probably could be covered in many That has been covered in many houses, maybe not being covered in houses. I think we do have to do in schools. So having a lot more time to do that. Is a good thing. There's talk of PE being increased the time for physical education and increased. I do, I think it's a missed opportunity, this new curriculum. I've called it a tweak rather than a revolution. And I don't know if people agree with me on that, but I think there could have been much there could have been much braver ways of doing this curriculum. I said, I promise I wouldn't talk about the religion. That was one example where that could have been very brave, but it isn't. And it's disappointing. To see. That they're just merely allowing another generation carry on with faith formation, albeit for half an hour, less per week or six minutes per day less. It's disappointment, but look, I suppose the primary curriculum will be discussed for the next few years. As consultations are ongoing it's curious to me. Despite all the consultations over the last number of years, dosh. Very little has changed since they've announced it. It's a shame. I think if people really listened to the consultations that were going on, we'd have a very different curriculum coming on than the one that was announced at three or four years ago. It seems very similar, but look, I'll be, I'm sure I'll be returning to that very soon. You're probably wondering why I sat at the start. I wasn't looking through bins. If you are on the podcast, you're not going to have the benefit this but if you're looking on the, on YouTube, please come along to YouTube to have a look at this. I'm going to show you a picture. Of a principal. Should I try and look like them. He's like a younger version of me. With much cooler glasses actually. This is a principle in Doncaster. In England. He's actually a secondary school as well. So it definitely is me. I'm a primary school to our principal, but a secondary school is monitoring families, bins, cars on post to crack down on authorized people's absences. This is an amazing story from the UK. Austria academy, Woodfield and Doncaster in south Yorkshire. Don Costa is a town outside. Sheffield's my beloved Sheffield. And it's checking driveways, boiler flus. To see if families are actually home or away on holiday and the principal David scales. Is saying they're being conducted at a safe to concerns for apps and children. I'm just finding this amazing what an amazing story. And I hope we're not going down this Rouge over here and aren't in fact, Probably doing the opposite. We're not taking much care at all. I think we're on the other side of the spectrum. The UK are obsessed with student absenteeism. And it's up to the point of finding parents if they don't send their children to school in Ireland, whereas where. I think if you might remember from the last episode I was told I was on a. Was it DriveTime? I think it was on DriveTime where Sarah McInerney. I and Cormack. Oh, I can't remember his surname. Sorry, Cormack. We're having a gentle kind of teasing of me. Could I parents taking their children out in the holidays and should go on it's all right. Isn't it. Yeah, we're very much the opposite end of the spectrum. I hope we never end up in a situation. We are searching through the bins and looking at gas at boilers to make sure children are coming to school. On a serious note though, with. While we don't want to go down to stick. Of the UK, when it comes to absenteeism, we do have a chronic problem with children's absenteeism. And the reason for that, is that we have such a shortage of educational welfare officers, and we really need to get that back in action so that if children are missing school for unnecessary reasons, we do need to be talking not because the impact of not coming to school. Obviously is a, is very, is great. And we do not want to go through a laissez Faire approach to knock coming to school. We are not a babysitting service. I feel a lot of the time I'm asked to go on the radio is when there's education stories about babysitting rather than about education. And I do think we need to take education a little bit more seriously. Now there's my lecture for you. Anyway, that is really all I have to talk about this week. We've hit the 30 minute mark and I've loved the notes of other stories that have I hit the news out on my feely channel. You can have a look at that, but go over to onshore dot Nash where you'll see this and lots more articles and mainly around sat allocations at this time round. But there's also a few bits on technology. I've I have a little Siri, a little article there on how to make a comic strip. Using Canva really great tool. And I've also a few other app. Our skulls. That might be of use to you. So that's it for me from this week. Thanks so much for watching or listening at depending where I at what you're doing. And as I said, please feel free to subscribe if you enjoy this and please. Share at this podcast with with your friends and colleagues as. And encourage them to subscribe by going to And I know for me, thanks so much for listening or watching all the very best bye-bye.

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