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Primary school report “very worrying” – O’Brien

12 June, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has described as “very worrying” findings which have been published in a report today by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) that compared children in fourth class in Ireland with their peers internationally.

The Cork North Central TD said that one of the more worrying findings was that 22% of children find it difficult to concentrate in the classroom because they go to school hungry and that inadequate sleep patterns are also a significant problem that have a direct impact on the capacity of children to learn when at school.

Deputy O’Brien continued: “The ERC study ‘National Schools, International Contexts’ has highlighted a number of very worrying findings including a statistic which shows Irish ten-year-olds are twice as unhappy at primary school than the international average.

“The report also showed 22% of Irish children find it difficult to concentrate in the classroom because they go to school hungry and that sleep deprivation is also a major problem. Clearly, successive cuts to the education and social welfare budget have had the greatest impact on families from disadvantaged backgrounds and this is reflected in the survey's findings.

“Despite all the talk in recent years of developing a knowledge based economy, the study found that Irish ten year olds spend on average 7% of their time studying science compared to the international average of 10%.

“Low levels of confidence amongst teachers when teaching science is a mitigating factor that can in part be attributed to the number of hours trainee teachers spend on science when at college which over a three-year teacher training course amounts to 12 and 40 hours in total.

“When primary school children do not get a good grounding in science then they are placed at a considerable disadvantage when making the transition to post-primary level. If the government is serious about addressing these issues then it will mean having to allocate additional resources to ensure teachers are properly equipped to deliver science based lessons.

“Education Minister Ruairí Quinn must also look at improving cooperation between teachers and ensuring there is meaningful engagement between schools and parents.

“Action is needed to address the problems highlighted in this report if we are to have a curriculum that is fit for purpose and able to meet the challenges of an increasingly diverse employment market.”

Note to editors: Deputy Jonathan O’Brien has tabled the following for Topical Issues’ Debate in the Dáíl:

For Topical Issues’ Debate:

To discuss the findings arising from the ERC study: “National Schools, International Contexts” – Deputy Jonathan O’Brien

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