This is the follow up from my last blog post, the week has flown in and there’s been a fair bit of back and forth on this.
Why is the school system in Ireland is broken? Because of the special relationship between the catholic church and the schools it is patron of( which is 92% of all primary schools in the country).
This special relationship is very physically repesented in my childrens school.
To get to the main gate into the primary school you have to walk in the main gate of the local parish church and walk 2/3rds of the length of it’s grounds, the school is literally build on the church grounds, a portion of it annexed off. That is it’s self sets up a strong notion of propriety and it’s always something I am mindful when ever I have to go into the school as I did for the meeting.
I walked the children to school and we had a grand stroll and we commented on the changes we could see to the trees along they way and then we got to the school gate. The deputy head was there, on his way out to have a word with lollipop lady but he called out to me saying ” I will be with you shortly Mrs X” which automatically resulted in a groan from my son to my left and a comment of ‘oh dear’ from my daughter to my right. X is their surname, but it’s not mine and I have never been married. They were both aware that I was going in to sort out issue of the form and that me getting called Mrs X was not an auspicious start.
Thankfully things improved drastically from there for as soon as I was in the office with the deputy head he said that he was sorry I had gotten the form, that I was completely right on my points about the church not needing any of that personal data and they had no right to ask for it. He explained that the form had not gone via the school administration and that it was a serious lapse in protocol and one which he would be bringing up with the parish priest. He left me know that there had been other complaints and it was only when the complaints started that he became aware that the forms had been given out as the teachers assumed they had been vetted and cleared and that if I wanted to I should complain in writing to the archdioceses.
The deputy head was unaware of the note on the form until I showed it to him.
He went incredibly quiet and then said that the note but a whole different spin on the matter.
I have to say fair play to him for his candour and understanding and he asked could he photocopy it and I agreed. The note on the form and my formal complaint means there may be a disciplinary hearing for the teacher.
He knows my son pretty well and was concerned that this would set him back as he had noted how well he had been getting on the last year. He said that he had spoken to the teacher about the issue of ‘punishment’ and that she said she never said she would not given punishment work for not bringing in the forum but had stressed how serious it was that it be filled in and brought in to the class.
He also said that he had spoken to my son the day before and was sorry if it caused him any stress be he was trying to get to the bottom of this and would make sure that his teacher from last year would check in with him over the week to see how he was, as a friendly ear.
The issue re the punishment work seems to have stemmed from the fact that if you need to bring in a parental note and fail to do so you may be told to copy out the section of the school rules which covers this a number of times and my son being how he is and the stressed importance of the form had him assume that it would be treated the same way, which is not that far of a leap of logic even for an elven year old.
After getting things straight with the deputy head we both then went to have a chat with the teacher outsides of the classroom, she explained that she had been faced with the parish priest who is also a member of the board of management insisting that the forums be given out and that they be given to all the children and filled in. It was under this pressure with the priest standing at her desk that she wrote a note on the forum to apparently try explain even as she knew that the form should not apply to my son.
I can see how it is hard to argue with the priest in front of the class room of children and there are other factors in play as well as the board of management play a part in hiring and firing all teachers.
After the explanation and apology we then we called my son out of class so that he saw all three of us together and we all assured him that the matter of the form had been settled and wasn’t going to be brought up again and that he had nothing to worry about. He visibly relaxed at this news and after a hug from me went back to class and so did his teacher.
The deputy head then walked me to the school door saying again he was sorry that this had happened and that I was right to complain and that there should never be a repeat of this but the school and it’s administration would never want to cause offence as it wants the best for all the children but in this case they were taking the brunt for the actions of the parish priest over which they had no control. He also thanked me for coming into the school to try get this settled and that
good communication between parents and school can often be vital for children esp those who have special needs like my son.
I don’t think the school let me down or my son I think the way that schools have been allowed to be set up with the abdication of the responsibility for schools by successive governments which has let us down and is in my opinion has been failing to live up to the terms and responsibilities as laid out in our constitution.
CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND – BUNREACHT NA hÉIREANN
3. 1° The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State
The state has let 92% of our schools be set up under catholic patronage, making them the designated default schools of the state and children who are not catholic or christen are used to fill up the places in the schools as the grants for running the schools come from the dept of education and are per child, but those children then are not cherished equally and have to sit in the class during religious education and instruction as there are not staff available to supervise them out of class and parents can not come on to the school grounds to do so due to insurance reasons ( but the parish priest seemingly can pop over any time he wants ) and the children can not be taken out of school during that time as they will then not reach the minimum hours required per week.
And even if a class has a set time for religious eduction and instruction and a child can be opted out
due to the nature of the curriculum there is not generally a rigid divide between subjects and the school ethos tends to pervade all subjects.
I left the school happy with the meeting and being able to deal with the deputy head to understood my concerns and was able to put his hand up and say what happened was wrong and should not have happened. Happy that my son now knew this wasn’t an issue and that the teacher would have it explained to her why her addition to the form was out of order.
As for how the priest is dealt with I know that anything which is distributed to the children will have to go via the office and that he will be reminded of the new HSE guidelines for the school which says all visitors to the school must check in at the office.
As I walked from the school grounds on to the church grounds I saw a class of children from the jr school with their teacher carrying a cd player and heading into the church. This used to happen with my two and when I questioned it I was told wasn’t the priest great to let the children do music and choir sessions in the church where they would not disturb other classes with their singing.
As I approached the gates of the church the parish priest drove in and waved at me.
Usually if anyone waves at me and I know them in anyway I would wave back at them but not that day, not having had so much grief and stress caused by his unthinking actions and assumptions.