Needs

15/07/2009

Reading Jenni Russell’s piece in the guardian today I was struck by how we here in the emerald isle are both extremely lucky and unlucky at the same time (I should say that I liked the piece but it was full of bark but lacking in bite; pot:kettle).

Education here hasn’t become an all-out landgrab for real estate at the top of any offical leaderboard (we all know what school to send kids to if you want 6 A1s in Leaving Certificate, but at least there’s nothing officially official). We don’t have the vast bureaucracy of the British Education system and thank god we don’t have the 11+ exams in primary schools. We haven’t introduced performance related pay, thankfully, but at the same time there is absolutely no incentive for teachers to work in the disadvantaged schools; to bring children from illiteracy and ennumeracy to functional levels of both whereby at the end of a student’s time in school (be it Junior Certificate or later) they will find subsistence employment and cease to be a burden on the state.

In Britain now, even in a time of (relatively) vast unemployment, cash incentives are being offered to teachers to commit to a number of years in disadvantaged schools. At the very least this can be seen as an admission that the authorities are aware that teachers are needed in classrooms for insurance and legal purposes, at best that they recognise that education is the only way for the most vulnerable to escape the cycle of unemployment.

Conversely, the well-documented stripping bare of the education system in Ireland and the risible psychological support services present have left those (of us lucky enough to still be) in the industry the feeling of swimming through quicksand. No matter what we do we’re doomed, and god knows what the budget in December will take away from us this time. I know children who – with the paltry facilities at their disposal 12 months ago – would be able to survive independently as adults , or at least have a chance (a modest goal, anyone would admit). I am now certain that they will not. This does not mean we will stop fighting for them (sometimes with them), we will not stop trying to make education a safe, happy, successful place but I cannot see any way we can save these kids. It is incredibly upsetting to think about but that is the way it is and we can only do what we can in the time we have.

The exodus of experienced teachers currently afoot also leaves me with bittersweet feelings. On the one hand i will have a job in September, but on the other the brain drain is startling. Facing into the hardest year in education in my memory (as student and teacher) we will be without those experts who have seen it all and know all there is to know. The country will be all the poorer for it.

In the area of healthcare the NHS is head, shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, knees, shins, and ankles above the Irish health system. Year after year of under-investment has led us to the point of collapse. Later this year, when myself and Herself are going to need the health services most, it is possible that the hospital will try to force and inducement requiring more drugs and more invasive birthing techniques in order to have a 12 hour turnaround in deliveries (there are elements of hearsay in this). Delivery rooms should not be considered Ryanair cabins. It is extremely worrying but not at all shocking given the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in. We don’t have a post-code lottery here in terms of treatment, but I have the feeling that this is purely due to all treatment being of the cheapest, lowest order (again, hyperbole alert). This is not to say the staff are not fantastic. Some of the midwives and nurses we’ve come across have been 100% absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Policing in Ireland has been written about at length. It is very hard to see what can be done without a complete dissolving of the Gardai a la the L.A. PD in times past. Sack everyone and only rehire those who you know you can trust, or at least, don’t rehire the worst. Good, law-abiding people I know have had insane experiences with members of the force purely for trying to stand up for what they believe is right.

Anyway, I’ll end my first post here, rambling and unfulfilled that it is (biting off more than one can chew, anyone?).

Don’t worry, there’s dick jokes on the way.

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