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Richard McKenna

Book: A Guide to Teaching Practice in Ireland.

Chapter 1:
The Irish Education System: Practice and Process
Chapter 2:
Beginning well: Initial Considerations for ITE
Author: Brendan Walsh and Rose Dolan.


Chapter 1 gives factual information explaining the development, operating and contemporary status of
post primary schooling in Ireland. As teaching is an ancient profession and has profound historical
antecedents, deciding to teach, therefore, entails entering into a system that has evolved over many
centuries (Walsh, 2009).
It talks about the evolution of post primary where Patrick Pearse a school teacher and leader of the
Dublin Rising of 1916 calling the post primary system a grinding murder machine, relating to the
curriculum as it catered for a small percentage of the population. For example in 1925 fewer than
1,000 pupils sat the leaving certificate examination. It wasnt until the commission on technical
education drew up a list of proposals later contained in the vocational education act (1930), showing
that the schooling in Ireland at the time was failing to attract those who would not benefit from an
academic curriculum, this was the origin of the vocational education system. This was the first statesponsored system of schooling after independence.
Noel Brown argues that the system reinforced social hierarchies, keeping social standards within each
family up until the 60s when the Labour Party published challenge and change in education, calling
for free education. This seen the opening of regional technical colleges which where to cater for the
needs of non-academic pupils that where not catered for in the traditional secondary school. It wasnt
until 1982 when Gemma Hussy became the minister for education, she targeted a number of issues
that still existed, and a major one was gender relation issues with in the classroom.
In 1992 The green paper was published from Niamh Bhreathnach emphasising the need for change as
a global society targeting areas for those who are disadvantaged socially, economically, physically or
mentally looking to create a link for a home/school/community based projected. Then in 1995 seen
the publication of The white paper, which submitted five pillars that the policy should be developed
from Quality; Equality; Pluralism; Partnership; Accountability
Again focusing on educational disadvantage sections, The leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and The
Leaving Certificate Vocational Program where introduced on a phased basis from September 95

The Education Act 1998 seen massive changes, this resulted from the 1992 green and 1995 white
papers which seen how schools operate adding career guidance, providing SEN to pupils while
developing a holistic approach and an admissions policy that provides for maximum accessibility.
Brendan talks about school management and operations and explaining the various types of schools,
there are three categories of post primary school in Ireland: Voluntary secondary schools, Community
and comprehensive, Vocational Schools.
This chapter states that as a student teacher it is important to choose what type of culture we would
like to work in as each school would have a different origin, ethos, management organisation and
general pupil profile.
Chapter 2.
In this chapter it goes into detail of how a student teacher should be prepared for TP, talking about the
initial school visit, factors to consider. Observing school teachers what works well and what does not.
Planning for teaching is vital as a student teacher can face two specific challenges, firstly not being
familiar with course content secondly what level to pitch the lesson at as they will not have had the
students before.
Classroom management is discussed as it is a complex issue, talking about rules and routines that
need to be established from word go.
Time management is vital as a student teacher as there is many demands upon their time, and can find
it that they have accepted to many duties and work that add significantly to their work load.


In chapter one of this Tutorial paper I found it to be a pleasant easy read, extremely
informative with lots of factual information to take in, the structure provides and clear
understanding in the history of Irish education which previous to this read I knew little about.
The information put forward is extremely relevant as a student teacher I need to be a wear of
how the education system is constantly changing for the better.
One thing that struck me was the evolution that took place since Ireland got independence,
how it has taken so many years for the schooling system to realise that not all people learn the
same way. The act reflected the growing realisation that schooling in Ireland failed to attract
those who could not benefit from an academic curriculum (Walsh, 2009, p. 3). I was
surprised that it took up until 1995 to implement a holistic approach to learning, when the
LCA and LCVP were introduced to schools, I remember back to 97 when I was started in 5th
year I got the feeling that some of the teachers and year heads were not fully a wear of the
course content and upon reading this article this was reinforced. Regarding the teaching
profession, the white paper outlined the governments understanding of future needs. It
promised induction for all teachers, but at the time of writing this has yet to come (Walsh,
2009, p. 7).

For the first time, the place of women in educational management, the availability of subjects
to girls and gender stereotyping in textbooks where addressed (Walsh, 2009, p. 5). It wasnt
until the early 80s that this was addressed and still to this day regarding the technical subjects
I feel that there is still a taboo around this area that it is more male dominated. This can relate
back to Harriet Martineau the first female sociologist
Martineau was persistent about the necessity for access to continuing and higher
education for those women who either wanted or needed training or qualifications for
career advancement. She held that no profession or career avenue should be closed
to women, supporting a number of campaigns aimed at removing barriers preventing
women from entering the careers of their choice (Weiner).
Still to this day there is gender related issues, This to me is all about inclusion and as a
teacher it is up to me to make sure this is implemented in my class that no one is left out.
In this reading I learned that the education system has its flaws, going back 100 years Patrick
Prearse calls the education system as the grinding murder machine. And to this day could it
still be called a grinding murder machine? I would say yes, the final two years that take place
in post primary school turn into a point race. Welcome to the Irish education system. It's an
absolute disgrace, a system which suits the Department of Education here and the teachers,
but turns the lives of too many of our young people into a living hell (Spain, 2010).
I think Pearse and Spain make a valid point, if the educational system was to steer away from
points and rote learning just to get maximum points in the rat race and focused on developing
critical thinking and problem solving abilities Irelands numeracy and literacy skills might not
have fallen, this is another argument as to how this study was conducted to conclude the final
The Irish graduates they are getting just don't have the think-on-your-feet, problem solving
ability they need. It's because students carry on their maths-related aversion into college and
avoid degrees in science, engineering and computers. And it's a problem with its roots in the
points race and our Dickensian Leaving Cert system. Our kids know all about Shakespeare
but not enough about complex numbers. (Spain, 2010)
I could relate to most of chapter two as a student teacher, I have been through most of the
motions that are being discussed apart from the actual TP which is coming up, in this chapter
it talks about pitching the content at the correct level which I feel is extremely important.
Kyriacou talks about the difficulty of doing this successfully is in part a reflection of the
complexity of the teachers task: namely, that the class may well have about 30 pupils in it,
comprising a wide range of ability and needs (Kyriacou, 2007 , p. 47). From researching this
I learned that it is important to over prepare, pitch to the middle but also have work that is
above it and below it that every student will be challenged in your classroom.
I have learned that classroom management, and like most student teachers find this
challenging. That this is not something that is learned but a skill mastered over time and all
the books in the world will not prepare me for this as much as TP that I will commence in

January. It is important at the outset to understand that good working relationships with
pupils are earned and should be founded on fairness, reasonableness and the need to create an
environment in which all are free to learn and progress (Kyriacou, 2007 , p. 23).


Kyriacou, K. (2007 ). Essential Teaching Skills. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd.
Spain, J. (2010, 08 25). Ireland Calling - Why the Irish education system stinks. Retrieved 09
28, 2013, from Irishcentral :
Walsh, B. &. (2009). A Guide to Teaching Practice in Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillian
Weiner, G. (n.d.). Harriet Martineau on Education. Retrieved 09 28, 2013, from