Best Schools? Another missed opportunity.

Sunday newspapers often feature supplements on different topics. This week the Sunday Business Post featured one called Best Schools. Last time they did this, unfortunately, it was more or less an advertising feature for lots of different companies involved in education with a couple of interesting articles amongst the litter. This time, it’s far worse.
If I were an average teacher who wanted to embrace technology in my classroom and this supplement was given to me, I would be very worried. Every article went along the same lines: the government need to pump more money into schools, they never plan anything, schools are not using technology enough, children’s futures are in big trouble…oh and if you do get some money, buy my product, everything will be that bit better for the children.
I understand that education companies need to sell their products and this is a good way to get their products out there. I’m sure that featuring in the supplement isn’t free. However, the big flaw is that these companies are not entirely focussed on education, their focus is profit.  As has been the case with every other supplement like this, it fails to speak to the teachers out there who are actually doing good stuff with technology in education – these are people who produce content, share resources and collaborate on ideas but don’t make money.
Where, for example, is the review of the amazing CESI conference, which happened only two short weeks ago? Between the 18 presentations and 12 workshops, one would easily have filled an eight page supplement with education gold! Need examples?

  • Amazing educators like Evelyn O’Connor, Pamela O’Brien and Nigel Lane (representing 3 levels of education) explained some really basic ways of using technology – free tools that any teacher could use no matter what their level of IT proficiency.
  • The Master of Twitter in Irish Education – Fred Boss – who heads up #edchatie would have been able to talk about the huge success of our weekly CPD fix on Twitter, which this week celebrated its 50th session.
  • Teachers like John Heffernan, Aibhín Bray and Pádraig O’Beirn use technology to help students learn history, maths and science respectively
  • Not to blow my own trumpet but what about the three teachers from Ireland chosen to go to the Google Teacher Academy in London?
  • Events like Digital Art Week, Signs of Spring, Science Week, Targetboards for Maths Week, Gifted Kids awareness and loads more led by teachers like Fred Boss, Damien Quinn, Peter Lydon and others
  • The fabulous blogs of fabulous teachers all aggregated by Nigel Lane
  • Seán Delaney – education radio DJ with Dublin City FM who podcasts his shows for everyone
  • Social Networking in Schools was discussed by several educators including Mags Amond and Catherine Cronin
  • Where can we get or create resources? Seomra Ranga has been offering free downloadable posters and PowerPoints for ages and recently celebrated its 5th birthday
  • The innovative studies of Patrick Felicia on Games-based Learning
  • That little matter called Scratch. Where were the case studies of all the schools who are teaching children how to program in a world where programming skills are proving to be more and more important.
  • Not forgetting CoderDojo – lots of teachers involved there.

I could go on about how this supplement failed to mention the podcasting, the film-making, the editing, the creating, the animating, the photography, the sharing and everything else that is currently going on in our schools. Despite the lack of funding from the government, the best schools out there are doing some great things that need to be highlighted in a national newspaper. The Sunday Business Post have published a doomsday supplement. Sure, we need faster broadband, better hardware, real infrastructure – we know that.  However, the picture isn’t completely bleak and I feel the newspaper should have highlighted some of the work that teachers like me and my colleagues are actually doing in our classrooms everyday.

0 thoughts on “Best Schools? Another missed opportunity.”

  1. Thanks for the mention Simon! I haven’t read the supplement and given the reactions from yourself and Damien, don’t think I’ll bother. I hope a lot of people will see through it like you have.

  2. Thanks for the mention. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a single media that actually recognises the good that teachers do. It’s ironic. Most parents, especially at Primary Level appreciate the job their teachers do.  This is never reflected in the papers. But we must still do good in spite of it.

  3. I think newspaper companies should focus more on the educational welfare and what is REALLY happening inside the classroom.  More often than not, teachers are always being labelled as Best.  Articles such as this forgets what values are within that BEST label.. Hard working teachers deserve more what is given to them..

  4. Hi Simon,
    I edit the Best Schools supplement and think your summary is grossly unfair not to mention  inaccurate. ‘Litter’ indeed!
    Yes, it is commercially funded – welcome to to the real world. But starting on page one, the lead story is, as far as I can see, the only article that’s pointed out the DoE’s failure to adhere to its programme for government as far as schools are concerned. 
    Maybe you don’t think someone should hold policymakers accountable, but I do. 
    Content on pages 2 & 3 involving INTO and the IPPN give a teaching perspective and much of the other comment is constructive rather than overtly concerned with pushing product.  
    As a parent who will have watched his kids pass all the way through a secondary system dominated by rote learning with next to no application of technology for pedagogical improvement, I take little comfort from knowing there are very tuned in teachers out there doing great work in pockets. Neither should you or your colleagues. Over the years, I’ve talked to many of them and written about lot of interesting school projects but sadly, it takes top down policy to be truly transformational.
    I hope the ‘average teachers’ that you manage to patronise get a little more out of the supplement than you did. 
    Ian Campbell

    • In which case Ian you can lead from the front and being to see the real picture by challenging the notion that all kids do in schools these days is rote learning.  And what rote learning exists is because of parental, and by extension, management pressure for good exam results. Cake and eat it stuff really.

  5. Simon Lewis is speaking as an educator who is working with the limited resources we have available to us to deliver the curriculum and he is using them effectively. He and many others pass their knowledge and advice freely to those of us who are still learning how to effectively incorporate tech into our teaching.
    He gave an honest review of the supplement and is fully entitled to his opinion which I for one fully agree with.

  6. As an organiser of the ICT in Education
    conference (,  at which more than 100 teachers from across the
    levels come together every year to share how they integrate technology into
    their classrooms, I find it disheartening that the focus of a supplement on
    Technology in the Classroom focuses on the education companies.  You would
    think that the people who are most qualified to talk about technology in the
    classroom are the teachers who are actually using technology in their
    classrooms.  The list above, of the many examples of the ways in which teachers
    are integrating technology, and sharing how they are doing this, is a good
    starting point but in truth is probably only the tip of the iceberg.
     Surely some of these initiatives should be discussed in a supplement on
    Technology in the classroom. 

  7. Thanks a million for the supportive comments. I have emailed Ian with my thoughts. However, very happy that this article was noticed by the newspaper 🙂

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