Tuesday, 18 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
31. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Education and Science the assessment, if any, he has carried out of the in-service training, resource material and other services necessary to implement the new primary curriculum. [12826/99]
Mr. Martin: My Department established a primary curriculum implementation group and a supporting technical working group some time ago to plan and put in place the training and support services required for successful implementation of the revised primary curriculum. These groups are representative of the partners in the primary education sector. They have done considerable work at this stage and their work is continuing. The revised curriculum is a development from the existing curriculum.
Arising from the deliberations of these groups, a series of newsletters outlining the strategy proposed for the introduction and implementation of the revised curriculum will be issued to teachers. The first edition of the newsletter was prepared by my Department and was circulated to teachers in March. It was also decided that training would be provided for all primary teachers over a number of years through a primary curriculum support programme, which is currently being put in place. A national co-ordinator for the programme was appointed in 1998 and interviews among primary teachers have recently been completed for posts of assistant national co-ordinator and trainers. The teachers appointed to these posts will be seconded to the programme from 1 September 1999. They will be deployed on a regional basis to provide training during the coming school year.
It is planned to provide four days out of school training and two days in school training in 1999 and 2000. These will be structured as follows: an overview of the curriculum – two days out of school followed by one day in school; English for teachers who teach through English – two days out of school followed by one day in school; or  Irish for teachers who teach through Irish – two days out of school followed by one day in school.
As regards resource materials, my Department is considering a document in this area prepared by the NCCA with a view to establishing the requirements in each subject area. Arising from this, a mechanism for providing schools with resource materials will be put in place as appropriate. Teacher guidelines, which form a major part of the curriculum documentation, will provide a significant resource for teachers in implementing the revised curriculum. Each teacher will be provided with these early in the next school year.
Mr. Martin: This is a mammoth task. The publication is enormous and has been advertised in the European journal. The teaching guidelines represent a significant additional resource for teachers in primary schools. Their content is better than anything we had before. It is important that the guidelines focus more on teaching rather than on the content of the subjects. I have had a number of briefings with the NCCA team who have been working on this for some time. One of the more significant factors of this revised programme is that the teaching guidelines focus on methodology, approach and attitude to teaching which will be of significant benefit to teachers.
Mr. Martin: There are guidelines in the new curriculum. We are moving away from the obsession that children must read books at four years of age. There will be a strong emphasis on oral communication as a prelude to the formal mechanics of reading. There will be clear guidelines for teachers on how they should approach the teaching of reading to young children. I have had discussions with the team involved and I am happy and impressed with the approach. People may have different views on this issue and I have no doubt we will have a robust debate when the guidelines are launched. I support the child centred approach, which allows the child to be creative, to develop and to have confidence, rather than pushing material at them and telling them to learn it.
Mr. R. Bruton: What assessment has been done of the adequacy of the four days' training – which amounts to just 2 per cent of a year – for what is a radical overhaul of the programme? Will the Minister agree there is a need for a longer period of training and, perhaps, out of school days to allow for a proper immersion in the developmental side of the new curriculum?
Mr. Martin: Initially we are talking about the overview of the first in-service training and the outline of the overall curriculum and then we will go into the specific subject areas. In some areas the trades radical overhaul would be an inaccurate description of what is happening. We are talking about a revised curriculum here. It is not as if everything has changed or the content of every single subject has changed overnight. There are more significant changes in some subjects as opposed to other subjects. The programme for in-service training is drawn up between Departments. The implementation group is made up of representatives of the teacher unions, management bodies and parents along with the Department working on a team approach to the in-service issue.
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