A new government was formed in Ireland today and we got a new Minister for Education. It’s Richard Bruton. He has moved from the portfolio of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. He takes over from Jan O’Sullivan, who has left education in a bit of a mess, with several ballots for industrial action going on and an awful vision for the future of primary education.
I must say I’m not very excited by this appointment. I hope I’m wrong. However, I don’t think Minister Bruton is going to care very much about primary education. I don’t think he is going to really shift much from his previous government role in so far as he will be more obsessed with getting people in education into jobs rather than caring about the education they receive. Moreover, I think there will be more focus on after school childcare than what happens during the school day.
The draft programme for government is scarce on promises at primary level. It looks like the ridiculous pluralist education system is going to carry on. 400 schools are promised to be multi-denominational or nondenominational within 14 years, which means that 90% of schools will still be allowed to discriminate against minorities by the middle of the 21st century. It’s becoming tiresome at this stage and it’s a pity that there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the political system who can see the potential difficulties for everyone, not just minorities, with this programme.
One chink of light is increasing Speech and Language Therapy services and the NEPS service. I have no idea why SLT has become the therapy to win the extra funding over things like Occupational Therapy and so on but perhaps some politician needs it for his/her own family. I would hope that this is just a small summary of increases because the government need to reverse all the cuts they put on children with special educational needs before they deserve any slaps on the back.
Pupil Teacher ratios are to be decreased according to reports. I don’t know; it just seems too predictable and too boring.
I know this government is probably not going to last very long but, to be honest, Jan O’Sullivan could have stayed in the role and I don’t think the programme for education would have been any different. There appears to be a complete lack of ambition in our primary education system at political level. I hope Richard Bruton is more enigmatic than this but I’m not holding out. As I said, I really hope I’m wrong. Maybe he will take the system and give it a good shake but with such a fragile government and Labour now out of it, I can’t see much rocking but I see a lot of rolling over to union demands.