Tag Archives: Ireland

The Tortoise and the Hare: Concerns in the new Junior Cycle Student Award


Before I begin I would like to highlight that I am a newly qualified teacher currently studying a Masters of Education in the hopes of finding a teaching job in Ireland. I am not a journalist or a professional writer.  The opinions express in this post are all my own. I am no expert in politics I am yet to join a teachers union and my first love is always my interest in Education.

Recently teacher’s unions in Ireland have announced that if the concerns of many teachers surrounding the new Junior Cycle Student Award are not addressed they will stop co-operating with the Minister of Education.  Since this announcement I have seen and read many articles online outlining the main concerns of teachers and explaining why teachers around the country are awaiting the arrival of September 2014 with great anxiety and caution. Each newspaper, online journal, twitter post and facebook status was followed by the expected “Teacher’s are always complaining”, “Teacher’s have it easy three months off for the Summer along with Easter and Christmas Holidays”, “Teacher’s constantly complaining damages the profession”. It is not my intention to delve into any debate with these individuals who seem to be over looking that teachers concerns are not for their jobs, it is not over pay cuts and it is not over working hours. The main focus of this announcement is our students and preserving the high standards of education we have within Ireland.

I was first introduced to the new Junior Cycle Award in college and I sat in the exam hall in my 3rd year exams answering a question based upon implementing the new Junior Cycle Award. My first reaction was “this is fantastic, finally moving away from root learning”. As a student continuous assessment was my forte. Projects, portfolios and group work were always the area that allowed me to show my creativity. The exam at the end of the term was my downfall. I could never perform to the highest of my ability.  So as you can imagine, as a teacher in training and a CA enthusiast the new Junior Cycle sounded like the perfect solution.

However, as I studied the new Junior Cycle as part of my education module the cracks began to show. My main concern is the removal of external examiners.

External Examiners

The new Junior Cycle will see external examiners removed and replaced with internal continuous assessment carried out by schools. The minister and department of education have stated that there will be guidelines and mock papers for each teacher to follow when correcting and assessing students work. This I feel is not enough. Removing external examiners can make it impossible to regulate, compare and preserve standards of education throughout the country. For each student to get a fair and equal award external examiners with a neutral perspective are essential. Many have said that the whole world today operates with internal inspectors and assessments and to a certain extent they would be right. However, I say yes to both. Keep internal inspections but also use external examiners to make sure standards are upheld. Internal inspectors know the students, they know how hard they work and they have worked with the students throughout the year and want each child to succeed. However, an external examiner can uphold standards and make sure assessment guidelines and protocols are being kept.

As a teacher I do not want to undermine or damage the teaching profession by what it seems to be “complaining” by many in the general public. I want to preserve the teaching standards and keep these high standards of education within Ireland. I want my future students to have the best education I can give them and in its current state I do not believe the Junior Cycle will be able to provide the standard I and everybody else should expect within our schools.

There are those within the teaching profession who stand behind the Minister and urge him to stand strong when implementing this new Junior Cycle Award. They believe slowing the process down is not the answer that Teacher’s, good teacher’s are the key to implementing this new Junior Cycle. To those individuals I thank you for your show of confidence in the teaching profession but I would also like to remind them about a certain Aesop’s Fable ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

”That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

”Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race.

Moral of Aesops Fable: Plodding wins the race.

Now picture this story:

The Minister and department of Education along with other education professionals were once boasting of a new Junior Cycle Student Award. “move away from root learning, promote creativity and great opportunities for students to experience new subjects and all to be put forward and implanted as soon as September 2014…it cannot be beaten…the sooner we start the better”. Now some teachers said quietly “we accept this challenge….but we think we can do better…we don’t think implementing this new Junior Cycle as soon as September is the right way to go…let’s slow down and make it right first the first time around”. The department and minister said “Is this a joke?” “The new Junior Cycle will be in place by September 2014…and we will adjust as we go” So the teachers and the minister decided to race. So a course was made and the race began. September 2014 arrived and the minister pushed ahead with the new Junior Cycle but stopped along because education standards had dropped and internal assessment was not being regulated, the capacity of schools to implement the new Junior Cycle programme in the wake of a litany of cutbacks, and there was a rise of inequalities between schools.” The department of education looked up and saw the other teachers who amongst themselves implemented a Junior Cycle that addressed and dealt with many of the cracks that began to show early on had reached the finish line.

Moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race. Fix the problems now listen to the concerns of the teachers and together we can all win the race…..and give the prize to our students.


Never forget why you became a teacher

Last night I took part in a twitter conversation with teacher’s from all around Ireland. The main topic of discussion was around the new Junior Cycle.

Many teacher’s have concerns about the new Junior Cycle undermining our educational standards here in Ireland. According to Sally Maguire of ASTI “young people who spend five or six years participating in second-level education will not experience State certificate examinations until they reach Leaving Certificate….the Junior Cert exam was invaluable Leaving Cert preparation and enabled students, parents and teachers to gauge aptitude prior to making choices about the Leaving Cert.”

One concerns even shared by myself is the legitimacy of in school based examinations. Has the importance of a neutral and un biased examiner been forgotten about? Students are “entitled to a fair, impartial and transparent State certificate to record their achievement at junior cycle. A school certificate based on grades awarded by students’ own teachers does not have the same status or validity as an independent State certificate.”

Other teachers are worried and apprehensive about the insufficient on day of CPD put in place for all teachers before the Junior Cycle commences. How can one day of training provide our students with the best education they deserve?

As a parent or teacher reading this blog you can see that our students are at the centre of all our concerns. When you see History teachers, religion teachers and all other teachers fighting for the preservation of their subject yes it is about maintaining and keeping our jobs but at the heart of all our anxiety is our students. They are entitled to the best possible education they can get and we their teachers are responsible for providing and upholding those standards.

Despite how idealistic and naive this may sound I became a teacher to make a difference to inspire, to teach and give students dreams a chance to be reality. If you are ever in doubt about the heart of a teacher watch the video to remind yourself who is at the centre of the concerns of teachers:

World Youth Day- Youth orientated Catholic Church Global Event





When talking about religion and society many people today believe religion has no role in today’s modern society. As a religious educator many people often assume that young people especially teenagers have no interest in religious education. However, I disagree.

As a religious educator I believe it is my job to make religion accessible to my students. Teenagers today need to find ways to connect to religion in their own lives. As a teenager one way I connected to my own faith development was by participating in World Youth Day 2008.

World Youth Day is a youth orientated Catholic Church event. At World Youth Day young people from all around the world will come together to explore their faith, experience friendship, have fun and establish memories that they will have for a lifetime. The World Youth Day experience includes music, drama, theatre, talks and discussion.

It gives young people a chance to celebrate their faith the Pope himself and with people from all around the world. I attended World Youth Day in Australia in 2008 and this year it was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Attending World Youth Day filled me with hope. In Ireland we see a Catholic Church that sits in the shadow of society. However, when a young person attends WYD they see a Catholic Church out of the shadows, with young people chanting Viva La Papa and wearing T-Shirts that say ‘It’s Okay to Pray’. Celebrating your faith has all of a sudden become ‘cool’ and ‘stylish’ again.

So if you are looking for ways to get your students to celebrate their faith and rekindle a love of the own faith development why not introduce them to World Youth Day?








Thoughts of an Irish Teacher in England (Interview with a Newly Qualified Teacher from Ireland dealing with current issues and experiences when teaching abroad)


I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a good college friend of mine and fellow teacher, Eoin Walshe. He recently took a full time teaching position in England teaching music, religion and humanities. Like endless newly qualified teachers in Ireland he had to search across the Irish Sea for any teaching opportunities. I took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experience so far. What does he enjoy? What does he miss? and what has he learnt? It is important to note that whilst this interview reflects the current issues in todays teaching climate all the information provided is based on personal opinion at this current time.

What made you decide to teach in England?

My original plan was to apply for Jobs in England for Interview experience and to get familiar with the interviewing process, which is something you don’t get to do in Ireland in today’s climate. The interviews in England however are easier to come by.  I thought this would prepare me for any interviews that might come my way in Ireland.


What factors led to you accept a teaching post in England?

The opportunity to work full time in a vibrant part of south London was a big pulling factor. However getting the chance to teach both my subjects Music and Religious Education plus humanities in this particular school was the biggest incentive to go across the Irish Sea. The opportunity to teach all of my subjects in Ireland I believe is next to impossible. Also getting to teach all my subject areas so early in my career is a major advantage.  Having a stable income was also important.

If given the opportunity would you go back and teach in Ireland?

Yes without question mainly for personal reasons, its home. There is a certain spirit and atmosphere within Irish schools that is unique to our emerald isle. However, professionally the educational system in England provides great opportunities for me at this stage in my career and it is more innovative and cutting edge compared to Ireland.


What do you enjoy about teaching in England?

I do enjoy teaching religious education in such a diverse culture. When teaching about world religions for example having students from multi faith backgrounds keeps me on my toes and this has ensured my continuous professional development and presents an ongoing welcomed challenge.

The positive aspect of teaching music is the endless resource available to both the students and myself. For example every student desk has a computer and midi keyboard, endless supply of instruments, multiple practice rooms and recording studio. Every music teachers dream. This also presents a unique challenge and gives me the opportunity to develop completely different classroom management skills when including all these resources in a lesson plan.

The opportunity to teach humanities is also enjoyable. Teaching humanities provides an opportunity to rekindle a subdued interest in subjects like history and geography and a canvas on which to paint strong cross-curricular links between history geography and religious education.

Do you think the Irish educational system can learn from our neighbours in the UK?

Whilst it is still early days for me to give a comprehensive appraisal there are certainly features of the UK educational system that could be incorporated into our system back home. However saying this there are also certain issues where the Irish system could avoid. For example Ireland at the moment are developing the new Junior Cycle. I would urge those who are responsible for the development and implementation of the new Junior Cycle to critically evaluate the positives and negatives of several corresponding features in the UK system.

A practical example of this would be instead of allowing time for the planning of creative and engaging lessons the vast majority of out of class time is spent uploading data and completing tedious paper work. While the concept of keeping the students and their parents involved in their own education progress is excellent -who the primary beneficiary of what often feels like a show/façade of data, statistics and lead table competition is questionable (The Student? Or the Gove?)


Would you miss the emotional support of family and friends when teaching in England, especially being a newly qualified teacher?


On a personal level of course I miss my fiancée, family and friends. However, professionally I am very lucky to have a strong support system within the school I work in. Also the benefits of online communication with my support system back home have been invaluable. It is a great test of character both professionally and personally. It has made the transition from dependant student to fully independent professional a lot easier.

Personal Reflection on Synagogue in Dublin: Day Trip Idea for RE Class


The trip to the Synagogue in Dublin was very informative and interesting. After learning a great deal about the Jewish faith in lectures this trip gave me an opportunity to find out about Jewish people in Ireland.

From reading one of the signs on the wall I discovered that the building itself was home to Rachel and Samuel Brown form 1922 to 1931. They were emigrants from Czarist Russia. They met in Europe and by the end of world war one had eventually settled in Dublin. Samuel Brown was also a garment manufacturer.

The main focus of the talk given to us in the Synagogue was based around Jewish origins in Ireland. To my surprise there seems to be numerous accounts and historical evidence to suggest that there was and still is a great deal of Jewish people situated in Ireland. One point I found extremely interesting was that as far back as 1079 Jews were arriving in Ireland. Also, evidence has been found that dates back before biblical times to suggest that some tribes got lost and landed off the west coast of Ireland. Anthropologists were digging on the Arainn Islands where they found skulls, which upon further research were found to match skulls found in Israel and Lebanon.

One point that was made very clear to us during our visit was that Jewish people were not victims of persecution in Ireland. A Jewish man from Portugal even became a Mayor in Ireland. One interesting fact about him was that he was forced into Christianity but then confessed to being a Jew. The lady who gave us the talk, her father in law was also the first Jewish mayor of Dublin in 1957. His son also became mayor of Dublin after his death. One point she made was that these mayors were not elected by only Jews, which, she said proves that “there is religious tolerance and very little anti Semitism in Ireland“. This remark I believe reflects on the history of the Jewish people throughout the world. They are a people who have suffered persecution throughout history. Her remarks about religious tolerance highlight to me just how important the aspect of being accepted in society without prejudice is to the Jewish community.

One interesting legend she told us about was about a young Jewish princess who married an Irish King. One day a year she would disappear up a mountain to fast for about 24 hours. This was known as Yom Kippur in the Jewish faith. Right to this day this mountain is called Mount Kippur.

Overall, the visit to the Synagogue was very engaging and interesting. The main points made during our talk that stood out to me where how Judaism arrived in Ireland many years ago and how it has survived and grown in this small country without any persecution or prejudice. This would make a very enjoyable and educational day trip for any RE class.