109. Ensure teachers have a recognised voice in all consultations.

One of my pet hates is when the government decide to have a consultation in educational matters. Inevitably, two things can happen in these. Firstly, the consultation can go out to everyone in Ireland. Secondly, the consultation can happen without input from teachers. 

In both circumstances, opinion tends to be watered down by vested interests. Take the consultation on the proposed ethics in education (ERBE) programme a few years ago. It was put out to the general public and every god-fearing family and every dioceses leapt about claiming that it would kill the ethos of their schools. I won’t go into this further except to say that very few teachers responded to it. 

Almost worse is when consultations about education happen without practicing teachers. At the time of this article, the school workload reduction forum (or whatever it’s called) contains zero practicing teachers. Similarly, Tusla changed the referral process for the School Completion Programme without an iota of interest in what teachers would think about it.

In consultations, we need to ensure teachers have a recognised voice in all areas, especially where they have a recognised interest. Vested interests should not be included in pedagogical matters. While consulting everyone is worthwhile in cases, it needs to be be supplemented with proper focus groups, pilots, etc. That doesn’t mean piloting bad ideas in schools where one already knows the outcome. Consultations need to involve the dissenters as well as the supporters.

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