General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Delegates told of 'major changes' to the system


26/03/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

A major gathering of teachers has been told of comprehensive changes planned for education, north and south.

Stormont education minister Caitriona Ruane and her counterpart in the Republic, Mary Hanafin, addressed the national congress of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) yesterday.

The annual meeting in Kilkenny heard that Northern Ireland was facing "major changes".

Ms Ruane has said the 11-plus will end this year and that pupils themselves will make important choices about post-primary paths at age 14.

She has also launched an area-based planning initiative to re-shape post-primary structures.

Ms Ruane told the 800 delegates that she wanted to reduce levels of underachievement and ensure that "every child has access to the best educational opportunities possible".

Delegates echoed her criticisms of schools planning to introduce entrance tests to select pupils after the 11-plus is scrapped.

Ms Ruane spoke of the growing demand for both integrated and Irish-language schooling.

"I have a duty to support Irish-medium education where demand is growing in a school population that is shrinking overall," she said.

"I believe that the children are best served by immersion in the language to ensure they have maximum opportunities to benefit from their lessons."

Ms Hanafin spoke about planning for a more diverse society and her intention to introduce 2,000 extra teachers into the Republic's primary schools in the next two years.

Meanwhile, the NASUWT annual conference in Birmingham, which is being attended by delegates from the north, will today hear concerns about cyber-bullying.

The conference will be told that there is growing evidence of abuse of technology, particularly mobile phones, emails and internet sites.

Delegates will be told that such abuse is increasing teachers' workloads and providing a vehicle for prejudice-related harassment of staff.

The union has campaigned to have mobile phones classed as potentially offensive weapons.

It says any policies that request teachers to disclose their phone numbers or email addresses for use by pupils should be outlawed.

"Pupils, who once had to content themselves with exhibiting poor behaviour when face to face with the teacher, now increasingly use technology to support their indiscipline," general secretary Chris Keates said.

"New cases of abuse, harassment and humiliation are emerging all the time.

"Relying on industry self-regulation to resolve this problem is the equivalent of waiting for hell to freeze over.

"School policies still don't take this issue seriously enough and this is not acceptable. Measures proposed by the NASUWT must be implemented."



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