Welcoming the Education Minister to St. Comán’s Wood Primary School, where she officially opened extensions at the school’s junior and senior sites, Principal Úna Feeley paid tribute to the Department of Education’s work on providing free books to students as well as the Minister’s action plan on bullying.
Ms. Feeley did however urge Minister Foley to exercise caution when it comes to what is included in the primary curriculum.
“Children have lots of little voices and worries in their heads – sadly some have more worries than others. I would ask you to ensure that the RSE curriculum in primary schools continues to be age appropriate and that the content continues to strive to keep children safe and address all the little worries in their heads but does not introduce questions for them that they don’t yet have at 4 to 12 years of age,” she said.
Ms. Feeley also raised concerns regarding DEIS schools in Roscommon, and claimed the criteria used for designating disadvantaged schools was not working.
She said the school had students from 29 different nationalities and fully supported the introduction of a European language into primary schools.
She also paid tribute to Cllr Dónal Kilduff and Kilduff Construction and engineer Albert Looby for their work in completing extensions in both the senior and junior sites. The extensions include new classrooms, a sensory room, and facilities for those with disabilities.
Addressing the student council, members of staff and local public representatives, Minister Foley paid tribute to staff, students, and the board of management for the work they did throughout Covid. She also thanked the Parents’ Association for the role they play in education.
“I know there a great things achieved here every single day because of the limitless ambition the staff have for the students they serve,” she said.
To the students, she said: “You are our absolute reason for being here, we serve you. Before I became Minister I worked for a long time as a teacher and they were the happiest and best days of my life because I learned a great deal from the students. People often think the teachers are doing the teaching and the learning is done by students but the learning is also done by teachers too.
“In relation to DEIS, we’ve had the single biggest expansion at a cost in excess of €32 million,” she said.
“The criteria used is the same criteria used across the country without fear or favour. It has worked for some; it did not work for others. The criteria speaks of ‘concentrated disadvantage’ and where there was the greatest concentration level that’s where the DEIS status was awarded,” she said.
“That is not to say that there are not children who are at risk of education disadvantage in every school. I think it’s significant that since I’ve become Minister that we have reduced the pupil-teacher ration to 23:1. That has never happened before in this country. We’ve also increased a variety of different supports in schools and more needs to be done”.