Greater focus needed on pupils’ mental health

A new report, co-authored by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) and industry leaders, has called for greater focus on pupils’ mental health by building confidence in the classroom through public speaking, acting and group work.

A new report, co-authored by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) and industry leaders, has called for greater focus on pupils’ mental health by building confidence in the classroom through public speaking, acting and group work.

The report, ‘Leading Change in Primary Education: An Industry-informed Perspective’, sets out 20 top-level recommendations focused on whole-system improvements in Irish primary education.

Seán Cottrell, IPPN Director, said the recommendation on mental health was particularly relevant given recent high-profile cases of cyberbullying.

“By developing confidence in children early, we can improve self-esteem and self-worth, helping them to become less vulnerable to bullying, whether cyber or in the playground, and preparing them to become well-adjusted adults ready to succeed in work or social situations,” he said.

The report, now being studied by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, and his officials, broadly reflects, though not exclusively, the views of business leaders and academics who took part in an Education Advocates symposium led by IPPN.

IPPN believes that it is important that industry understands why primary education is the foundation stone for tomorrow”s business, community, political and education leaders.

“Investing in primary education is key to delivering the kind of skilled human capital required by the emerging knowledge economy, and investing in school leadership must be a key component of any reform programme. Most of the recommendations in this report are not all about more funding but rather about doing things differently,” said Mr Cottrell.

Among the group’s recommendations are:

§ Build self-confidence in pupils through public speaking, physical fitness and mental health;

§ Incorporate the teaching of foreign languages into the curriculum;

§ Establish a multi-annual budget for ICT for primary schools, concurrent with the rollout of broadband to second-level schools, and set targets for the delivery of an integrated ICT-supported curriculum;

§ Develop learning communities within large schools to engage teachers in peer-based professional development;

§ Remove administrative tasks from principal teachers, focusing their role on managing the quality of teaching and learning;

§ Provide staffing flexibility to allow principals of smaller schools to induct new teachers and coach existing staff;

§ Build team-work and leadership modules into the new four-year Bachelor of Education degree programme;

§ Celebrate schools” successes locally and nationally and promote high standards of teaching and learning in our communities; and,

§ Devise and implement a 10-year national strategy for primary education.

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Industry and academic leaders from Dell, Covidien, Kerry Group, DCU, IBEC, SOS Ventures, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, Eli Lilly, MIDAS, Engineers Ireland and PCI took part in the Education Advocates workshop.

IPPN President Gerry Murphy said the report should “improve joint understanding of the connection between primary education and the working world”.

“By creating alliances with industry and other educational stakeholders, IPPN believes that we can create the tipping point needed in Government policy, aligning primary education policy with employer needs and giving every child, irrespective of socio-economic background, the best possible chance to contribute to their communities,” said Mr Murphy.