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The part Kenny show on news talk with Marter private network during current restrictions. Don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help.


It does look like March the 1st is the most likely date for schools to start reopening on a phased basis, the hint and suggestion is that the senior and the junior infants and possibly 50 years, for reasons I don't fully understand, but no doubt will become abundantly clear and time will start to go back on that date.


Nothing is set in stone, as we heard the Minister for Education, Norman Foley, say on the news just a short time ago. But it's certainly good news for parents who are desperate for the kids to go back to school. But what about the teachers? Principal of St Action's National School. As Matt Melvern Matt, good morning.


Good morning, Jonathan. How are you? I'm good. Remind us where St. John's is again.


Kennicutt County was made on the borders of one on the borders of me west, but also near Offaly and Kildare. So you take a little bit of everybody.


I'm sure that's not a bad thing. Matt, what's that news meaning for you this morning? That the Somalis, as they would be euphemistically referred to, will be going back on the 1st of March?


It'd be great news for us and for our school because it would mean, you know, we've got children back in the building. We're actually opening from next Monday for our two preschool classes for children with S.T. So we're going to have a week next week when we're back with some of the staff would be very like to lay provision that it's going to be great to have the voices of children around the school again. And then I would agree. I think that if we can bring infants back and see if we can keep that safe, then it'll be a kind of a trial, one that we could maybe get all the rest of the kids back.


But it is very difficult to teach, obviously, pre-school children or children with special needs remotely. It's equally difficult to teach children in infant classes. You know, they require a lot of Hands-On activity. There is a huge socialization aspect to education for infant children. So the fact that they're in school mixing with each other like the playground is as important as the classroom for children, for all children, actually. And also, I think it would be a great idea.


I think that we all as a society need to keep the numbers down so that we can get the schools open because, you know, even though the remote learning is much more effective and much more technical and much more astute at the moment, we are all aware that the actual physical presence of children in school is far superior to anything you can do remotely.


How do you feel as a teacher about the kids coming back? The numbers are a little bit higher than they used to be. Teachers haven't been vaccinated. There's various discussions about whether they should be put further up the list. Is that concern outweighed by the desire to get the kids back to the classroom?


Yeah, I suppose you can only speak to your own reality. You know, Jonathan, so I would be delighted to be back in school. I actually worked from school since January because it was handy to be in the office and to have access to materials. And quite a few of the teachers have been working in and out of the school getting materials to send home, you know, for our children, particularly in the infant classes of those teachers and even stuff in the school for parents to collect or for children to leave back.


So from a personal point of view, you know, it would be fantastic. But I was aware in January, even in the area of kindergarten, I mean, every everybody in this wave knows people who got us, who got the virus and families that suffered from it and people, you know, that succumb to it as well. So it's a lot more you know, we're a lot more aware now, I think, than we were previously of just how dangerous that is.


So we are also aware of how important it is to keep the rules, you know, and how important it is to get back to school. But from a teacher point of view, I think that most teachers would be delighted to go back to school once it's safe. I would say, like even some of our preschool unit people who work in those units where a lot of intimate care needs take place, I would think that possibly there is a case to have those ears and teachers in those settings.


Vaccinees, I wouldn't like to be saying, Jonathan, that radio presenters can get vaccinated because school principals need to be vaccinated. You know, I think that if we start you know, if we start putting ourselves up a hierarchy, then that's you know, that's not correct. I mean, let's look at the people who know who know what they're doing.


Exactly. And it's a bit of a race to the bottom if you try to prioritize one group over another. We had Dr. Evelyn, she's a pediatrician on the program earlier.


And your interaction with children every day we assume, and seaside whatever system you use, she she kind of summed it up by saying, I can't remember the last time I heard a full throated belly laugh from a child. And she was making the point that children have become withdrawn and anxious and irritable and most devastatingly silent. Has that been your experience as well, that as they stay away from their friends, as they've been in this artificial environment, that that it's really impacted them this time more than the others?


I have to say, I heard I heard that lady on before the break, Jonathan. And I really did resonate with. And I suppose it's all the more poignant when you work in a school building designed for 600 children and there's no there are no children accepted, you know, a green, gray haired, middle aged man and a couple of other people. But I have heard and I have interacted with quite a few parents in the school. And I mean, you know, we heard a lot about, you know, children with special needs and and vulnerable children.


But every single child needs that interaction with their colleagues, particularly in instances where families are smaller so they don't have siblings to play with. So if you were an only child, that child is now only mixing with adults and they need to meet their friends. They also need to meet the people they don't particularly because almost because, you know, there's a there's a negotiated skill that you need in the playground to get on with your friends, but also, you know, to make peace and to endure and to tolerate and to get on with the people that aren't particularly your friends.


So, you know, that social interaction and even from the point of view of what you describe in schools are radio stations.


They're by the way, I think it applies universally, doesn't it?


Well, I would I would hope that the school is a reflection of a place is as accomplished as news talk.


Well, we wish you the very best of luck with whatever does happen. Fingers crossed that you won't be on your own that building for much longer. Well, you'll definitely have some back with you next week. Same principal of St. John's National School there in Westmeath, bordering three other countries as well. Thank you very much. Let's go up a couple of years to believe in. Isabella Flanagan, good morning to you. You're welcome. Thanks for having me on.


You were on with part on Newstalk last week when we didn't know what was going on. Now we do know what's going on. Are you happy? I'm personally delighted that we have the choice, but I think what we need to remember is that we have been fighting for this for about nine weeks. We've been waiting for Norman Foley to come out and let us know what's happened. And so I think it's great that we finally have a bit of clarity.


But I think it's a key learning stage for our students that when we all stick together, we can achieve brilliant things. And I think this just proves that we've gotten the minister for Education to finally listen to us at the start of January. I wasn't very hopeful, but I'm delighted. So have you made your decision?


Are you going to sit the exam? Are you going to go with the other a calculated grade option? I'm personally leaning towards the calculator greed, but I'm not 100 percent sure and just.


Yes. Right, and do you think that you're going to make that call pretty quickly? And yeah, I'd say so, because I've been thinking about it for a good few weeks and I'd say I will go for the calculator grades, I've been talking to a few of my friends and a good few of them are going for calculator grades and then a handful want to set the exams and they want to set them from day one. Really?


So what happens now? So you've been studying all along. Apart from fighting the system, you've been studying a way in the background.


How has the school experience been for you? I mean, we always said that the class of 20, we're always going to be referred to as that class that had calculated grades, the class of twenty one. Now we'll have a whole different kind of expectation upon them.


What are the stress levels like now, Isabel? Have they eased a little bit now that you've clarity? And there definitely is to an extent, but there still pretty high, boss, I'm looking after all the teachers in the good school that I go to and cutlery have been really helpful and guiding us along the way. I have been studying as well as trying to fight for optional particular grades along the way. But yeah, the stress levels have definitely like gone down a lot because it's all I've been able to think about since January.


And I think that's a similar experience to students across the country.


What about we still have uncertainty about orals. I don't know if you've got practicals to do it on what subjects are studying, but you do think you're going to be doing an oral do you think it's going to be your resume or whatever?


And what's to stop people putting little Post-it notes around the edge of the laptop if they're doing the if they're doing their oral online? I don't know, really, because we haven't really heard anything about it yet, but I hope we get some certainty about it over the coming days. I think we should have learned about it yesterday, really, when Norman Foley came out with an announcement. But hopefully we'll know in the next few days.


OK, well, look, good luck with the studying and fingers crossed you'll get the results you want if you do it in real world. Are using the calculator grades Isabel. Nice to see that some of that pressure has been lifted off your shoulders. Mike Gillespie, general secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland, good morning. Your welcome to the show.


Good morning, Jonathan. Nice to hear a student a little bit more relaxed than they were. I think that's that's a universal feeling amongst that cohort this morning.


Yes. And it would be shared with the teachers and the T.Y. that, you know, the pressure that we reduce and make it look, leaving cert every year doesn't matter. Whatever leaving cert you're doing, it's a high pressurized year. You know, it's the first year that a student doesn't know where they're going to be next year. There's an uncertainty about where they move on to. So obviously, you know, even in normal circumstances, it's a high pressure year.


And this year, I suppose, the added uncertainty of, you know, we're living in a pandemic. So absolutely anything we can do to reduce those stresses is welcome. And yesterday's announcement, I suppose, does do that to a certain extent. OK, it does do it to a certain extent.


But is everybody happy? Teachers are. It's a broad church, let me put it that way. The SGI, for example, that there were bitterly disappointed because grades on externally assessed work such as Aura's are gone from the predicted grades, but they'd be kept in the real world scenario.


Do you share that disappointment or is that just kind of logical and common sense? Well, no, I mean, we we would have concerns, obviously, you know, the T I realized, you know, especially after Christmas, that there was a need for this contingency to be calculated great, as it was called last year. Now it's going to be the FCC accredited grades was needed because as a contingency, we don't know what's going to happen with the new variants and whatever.


So the need for a contingency with their knowledge, how to work that out, we welcome that. There's going to be the second component of assessment which measure other skills and competencies and knowledge. You know, a student can be very good orally and not as good written. So the fact that that's going to be measured in the in the exams, which is going to run parallel to the calculated grades now, it's also going to be taken account in the calculated grades.


But this is one of the things concerns we have is that if it's running in the as per the exams and it's running in the exams because public health is that it can between now and the end of the year. Remember, the leading sort of started already with the second component of assessment. One of the things we were saying was it should be used also in the calculator grades process or the SSA accredited process. But, you know, what's been decided now is it's two parallel process, completely unlinked.


But we would be saying to to students that you should do both. You know, that, you know, there's merit in doing both. And, you know, the calculator grades, the calculator grades process is the calculated grades. And it's going to go when the teacher has done their estimated grades. It goes into the the standardization process, as some people say, is run through a computer. And that's that process. Whereas the state exams that we know where there's a, you know, human interaction in terms of the the second component of an assessment, the teachers are involved, the examiners are involved, and then they the sit down exams.


That's something everybody knows and we've been used to for years. So we kind of know how that process absolutely works.


So there are still questions, but there's questionnaire questions that can be answered.


I have to put it to you, Michael, that teaching, after going through a pretty couple of good weeks of people saying teachers are brilliant and the going the extra mile, it was damaged a little bit now, not by your trade union, but by the actually walking away from the talks process a couple of days ago, only to go back in about 24 hours later because it smacked of same old same old teachers will object to everything.


Are you worried?


Well, that's that's that's that's not my union. We I know we were people we were teachers as a group and a collective. Yeah.


We're trying to sort it out as every teacher on the ground is a teacher is you know, at the moment they're they're working as hard as they can with this online stuff. As your previous contributor said, it is quite difficult. It was all new. We admit that last March, you know, we were taken by surprise. We're much better at it now and we're getting a lot of positive results. So teachers are engaging in that.


Did you really think the teachers could? And again, I'm not saying your union will do it on that. You can't predict what the ACTU will do. But is there potential for a spanner to be thrown into work by the teaching unions between now and June?


No, I mean, as I said, I can only speak from my unit and we always realized there was a need for a contingency. Now we need we need now, you know, there's going to be details have to be worked on still. I mean, we we're going to have classrooms now where we have students doing a calculated grade model, possibly, as your previous contributor said, she's going to opt for that. We have students who want to be prepared for the written exam.


We like people who are working on second component of assessment and again, in both models where they're there. But we also have to complete the course because finishing a matter of course, or finishing a Spanish course is needed so they can progress next year, because if they don't have those basics, then next year is a problem. So so we've got all this is all going to be going on in one classroom. No other jurisdiction, remember, is running a parallel process.


Ireland is the only one that's doing that. And let's face it, the people who are at the center of this are the students, but the people who have to deliberately show the teachers, the teachers in every single classroom around the country will have to deliver this.


I know from speaking to parents last night, the junior Saaz, they couldn't have done a happier dance because the exam just vanished overnight. And I don't know how teachers are going to manage that over the course of the next few weeks because, you know, you were building up to something and that's not going to be there.


It may be replaced by a smaller test of some kind. And I presume it will be, however.


Well, there is there is details on the junior cert already available. We're going to use the model that was used last year. And look, we have to call for that very early on. The once the public health had stated that the two exams couldn't be run in tandem, it was obvious to us that there needed to be a call. The call was made, we call for it earlier to call for a decision and party made earlier. And we welcome that.


It was it was announced with the leading such announcement yesterday.


There was unbridled joy amongst 15 and 16 year olds. Let's not deny that there was abuse at the senior level.


Michael, what does it mean for the students who goes happy days? I don't have to do a tap between now and June because it's got to be calculated grades. And sure, they're going to base it on two and a half years as opposed to the last two months. Well, no, I mean, they still are going like they're going to still have to work at the calculated grace process where the teacher gives their final assessment is not going to be until May.


So, I mean, the instructions we would expect it to be coming out from the department will be involved in that detail over the next couple of days, will be that, you know you know, the teacher's professional judgment. Now, this is on the calculated a grades process as opposed to the examination process and will be based on on an overview of everything that's been achieved, including what's going to be achieved up to the end of May. So obviously, there has to be things in the guidelines that we'll try and keep students engaged and they need to be engaged.


Because remember what I said earlier, it's not just about the it's not just about the calculator grades. They need to finish courses if they're gonna have to do an apprenticeship in electrician. You know, the maths is still important. They identified courses and that's going to be a challenge. Yeah, the motivation is going to be a challenge. Yeah, we talked about Smalley's going back seniors and juniors, hopefully from the 1st of March.


But then bizarrely, it's 50 years. I would have assumed that six years, the exam year would have been the one to bring back. I mean, can you understand that? Have you heard anything about that? Are we still in a little bit of a vacuum of proper information?


Well, no, no. I mean, what we've again, what's been agreed already is that there's going to be a phased return. And the public health says that we had already called for the leading service to go back early because of what we've just previously discussed, the two year call for that. And basically next Monday, our post primary schools are opening for the special classes. So the first phase is already completed. They are going back now. There's only small numbers.


So who is in the next phase? Look, there'll be a reason for the 50 years because what caused the problems this year was the time they were out of school. So the fifth years are in a two year cycle to be the leading cert as well. So the earlier I can understand that, the earlier we get them back, the better we can have them prepared for for their leaving cert in 2022.


OK, that now makes sense. I'm glad somebody explained it to me. I felt like it was back in school learning something new today. Mike Gillespie, general secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland, thanks for that. Thanks to Isobel Flanagan and as well for joining us on the line.


If you are a parent of a junior cert, how did that news go down in your house last night?


Can you imagine the excitement? Oh, we don't have to sit the mean state exam. We just have the old exam set by the teacher.


That must have been a great burden lifted off their shoulders in more ways than one. And fingers crossed, it goes well for those leading starts who are either going to sit the exam or take the predicted great option.