Cookstown teacher’s new year wishlist for Education Minister

Stephen McCord
Stephen McCord

Cookstown man Stephen McCord, President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, has issued his new year wish list for Education Minister John O’Dowd.

“There are a range of ongoing issues which have and continue to cause us concern because not only do they impact on the profession, but ultimately what impacts on the profession impacts on our children,” said Mr McCord, a teacher at Glastry College, Newtownards.

“Common Funding Policy – the Minister has proposed a policy which would direct more funding towards schools in socially disadvantaged areas. While we welcome this we fear that this policy will result in schools which are already hard pressed financially losing money.

“What we don’t want is a few schools to gain at the expense of many schools. We are also concerned at how any outcomes will be measured.

“Academic selection – In February 2014 this year’s cohort of P7 children will receive letters to tell them if they are ‘successes’ or ‘failures’. No matter how it is dressed up, this is the reality. Ask any secondary school teacher and they will tell you that the children coming to them in Year 8 often come with a sense of failure which has to be re-built into self-confidence and a love of learning.

“We would urge the pro-grammar lobby to realise that schools are changing organically anyway by dint of the falling population, so that many children attending so-called grammar schools now would not have been admitted when places were at a premium.

“Continuing professional development – This issue is inextricably linked to the ongoing saga of the Education and Skills Authority. Its delay has cost millions of pounds as politicians fail to agree. Unless they do, education risks becoming the sacrificial lamb on the altar of political difference.

“As a result of the hold up on ESA we are in a no-man’s land regarding how teachers upskill during their careers through continuing professional development.

“The recent PISA report showing that some skills among UK pupils are stagnating compared with our international counterparts proves how vital it is that our teachers are as equipped as possible to educate our children if they are to compete on the international stage.”