Ask me why I’m voting Yes

Ask me why I’m voting Yes.

For all our friends in crisis.

For all the nurses, midwives and doctors I know who have to carry a copy of the Constitution when caring for my pregnant friends.

For the shade in legislation, not the black and white of the Constitution.

For all the parents who have to make decisions they’d rather not make.

For all the women I know who travelled to another country for their medical care, and never said a word.

For any woman who has ever felt trapped in her own body.

For all the taxi bus and train drivers, ferry workers and pilots who brought our sisters abroad for care they should get at home.

For shame to go away.

For Ireland to face its self.

For the bereaved.

For the anonymous.

For empathy.

For the truth.

For the raped.

For the women who can’t share their stories, who can’t voice their pain.

For anyone who can change their mind when faced with the reality of the 8th.

For my wife and daughters.

For listening to women.

For Savita.

For Ann.

For repeal.


My reads of the week #2

Here are my reads of the week, five of the best things I’ve read this week.

Why does Alex Quigley hate highlighters?

This is What Education Reform Looks Like according to Mary Ann Reilly

Dubliner Stephen Dawson: the police told me I could go to prison for match-fixing (passed on by Brian Doug McMahon)

How Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith Use Technology (passed on by Electric Literature

In 1965, Stephen Somerstein grabbed five cameras and headed south: from New York Times Photo

Photo credit:

6 Reasons why we’re going on strike

Change. It’s all about change. Let’s talk about change.

The world is changing, we are told. Thanks for the heads up! The Irish education system needs to change too. No argument from me there, but anybody who actually teaches teenagers every day will tell you that change is everywhere in schools. Take my classroom: in the twenty years I’ve been dispensing wisdom it’s change a hundred times. The desks have changed, the blackboard became a whiteboard, we got a fire door, and I got technology. When I think about my own secondary education I think chalk and talk and that was still the way when I started but something else clicked for teachers over that time, my methodology has morphed from standing at the blackboard and telling the kids the story, to listening to what they say and letting them do the storytelling. This reform will mean re-placing the barrier between teach and student, creating the distance necessary to mark their work ourselves is a change we don’t want.

We go on strike because we want change, but not this change.

Protecting the student/teacher relationship:
Kids are already the communicative, involved, adept, sharp and worldly citizens we need them to be, no amount of tinkering with the education system will kill that or make it more evident, they’re kids, they’re not guinea pigs or robots. And teachers know them as well as most do. How can we take account of this knowing if we move from guiding them to judging them, from being proponents to evaluators?

We go on strike because changing the teacher pupil relationship is a change too far.

It’s a half-baked reform:
This reform needs to be exactly right, half baking something, as any home economics teachers will tell you will not get you an A, same with education reform. Good intentions are one thing, good policy is another. If teachers were to accept the current proposal from the Minister, the details would be unknown and liable to cause further rancour down the road. We don’t just know what moderation looks like, we don’t have training in how to do any of this. Here’s a picture of what this reform is like…
(pretty to look, sweet to the taste, but a bellyache after a full tub)

We go on strike because anything less than the right change at the right time is wrong.

Educational tourism:
I’m tired of ‘international best practice’ and the phrase ‘not fit for purpose’: Ireland is unique, let’s devise a system that meets our social and economic needs without referring to Finland, England or Queensland.  Instead of cutting and pasting inviting ideas from other countries, couldn’t we just try to build the best education system here using what we know we want and what research here shows is doable?

We go on strike because someone else’s change is not necessarily the right change for us.

Any chance of some help over here:
The government is in ‘listening mode’? Listen to this: Consultation, training, resources, investment. Where’s the ‘education partnership’? Where’s the CPD? Where’s the detail on workload? Where are the resources for, and investment in change for schools? Not to mention the joke of ‘whole school guidance’ and the lack of psychological services. Or the cuts to special needs provision. Come to think of it, has this government invested in anything? Certainly not in teachers, most especially not in new teachers.

We go on strike because we know that this change continues the trend to cutting back on, not investing in education.

Nobody wants to go back, teachers aren’t change haters, we are on board with the need for reform. But we’ve been pushed and pushed and this is the wrong change at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

We go on strike because we know good isn’t good enough, better is possible, best is all our students deserve.

Here’s something to sing on the picket line:

Fintan O’Mahony
ASTI Standing Committee
Facebook: Elect Fintan

Education and Industrial Relations


What is to be done with the ASTI? They have, it has been widely reported, brought schools to their knees, inconvenienced parents, destroyed the futures of students nationwide and demanded the renegotiation of a national pay agreement. What have they done to bring the whole system to a standstill?
They have refused to attend staff meetings and parent teacher meetings until the Minister for Education chooses to discuss their rejection of an offer of a cut to their pay and a deterioration of their working conditions. The reaction to the low level industrial action has been such that we can just imagine the bloodbath if schools actually closed or (imagine!) teachers picketed schools.

The line we hear on the ASTI is that where we are is lonely, that the entire Irish public service has accepted the Haddington Road Agreement and we are out of step. It’s an interesting way of portraying a democratic decision but it also neglects to mention the way education in particular has been a victim of the mutton dressed as lamb that is austerity pretending to be reform is evident in England, in the the US, in Denmark, in South America, in Africa where teachers who stand up for themselves are portrayed as dangerous outsiders.

The truth here of course is far more benign. Schools have, for the most part, continued on as normal, teachers teaching, students learning and a renewed focus on education to the exclusion of distracting administrative tasks. The question remains though, what happens next?

The Minister for Education has signalled his intention to meet the ASTI leadership in the coming days to discuss ‘educational issues’ but not pay and conditions. It’s a pity teachers had to take any action to entice Mr Quinn to the table, more pity that he seemed to regard education matters as subsidiary to everything else (it makes sense I suppose when you consider the filleting of the education budget that he believes divorcing education from finance is in ‘the public interest’).

There are of course many education issues we would love to discuss, I’ll list them below, but to repeat the canard that we want a completely renegotiated Haddington Road Agreement is just silly. The Haddington Road Agreement was rejected for all kind of reasons, but not because of pay (here’s what I wrote about that before
It’s interesting that the concentration now on education because of the industrial action has allowed issues otherwise ignored to enter the public consciousness: Supervision and Supervision (S&S): the time spent by some teachers watching students in out of class time or covering for absent colleagues for an extra annual payment; ‘Croke Park hours’: the mindless administrative time teachers do outside school time; and Junior Cycle Reform (I wrote about that here In that respect the action has served a purpose beyond the aims of the ASTI, it has placed discussion of education centre stage beyond the circus around exam results and the focus of the Easter Conventions.

Could the Minister swap something on these issues (S&S, ‘Croke Park time’ or Junior Cycle Reform) for acceptance of the pay agreement?
On S&S, the idea of anyone being asked to the equivalent of two weeks work unpaid per annum is outrageous, teachers wouldn’t be the only profession to bristle at the suggestion. If there was a way perhaps for teachers to opt out of the proposed S&S scheme it might make it more acceptable, especially to those like me who have never done it, even for a payment.
The opening up of ‘Croke Park time’ to uses beyond the prescriptive list as it currently stands would allow teachers in schools to use the time effectively and not for the box ticking it’s used for now.
It’s on Junior Cycle reform that I believe the most educational value could be gained from a discussion with the Minister. The reform has been exposed as wearing the Emperor’s new clothes in recent weeks as the plans for the first subject to be introduced revealed that English teachers are being provided with three days of CPD (over three years!) during which they will learn how to design, deliver, assess and moderate the whole course. Some reality from the Minister on this reform would be welcome. Without the proper resources schools won’t be able to deliver it, without support teachers won’t be able to teach some new courses which would be welcomed by many who have experienced stasis over their whole careers.
The ASTI has further issues to raise on Junior Cycle, around assessment to begin with. The original model for the Junior Cycle was for each subject to have a state examined component worth 60% and a school based component for the remainder with external moderation. The Minister himself changed this a year ago to a two tier system: English, Irish and Maths would continue to have the model outlined above, every other subject was to have 100% of the assessment completed in school. This is now undoable: given the treatment of English, an alleged priority subject, how can we expect that other subjects will get the right support? (There are Standardised Tests to be introduced too, when the world is switch off from them and we’re supposed to be eschewing high stakes exams!)

So fix the S&S offer, loosen what we can do with ‘Croke Park’ and on Junior Cycle, resource schools, listen to teachers and move on assessment to ensure a credible reform.

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