- If I were the Minister for Education - If I were the Minister for Education - If I were the Minister for Education

Author: Simon Lewis

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How many times have you said to yourself, "If I were the Minister for Education…?" Well I do! Rather than grumble to myself, I decided to podcast my thoughts on ways I'd change the primary education system in Ireland. Every episode I'll take on a different theme, give some background and hopefully come to some conclusions by the end.
212 Episodes
According to reports in the media, in January 2023, the CPSMA wrote to the Minister for Children, Roderick O’Gorman to say they were against the teaching of gender issues because what it means to be transgender would require to teach something about which “there is neither a scientific nor social consensus to highly impressionable young children” I thought it was funny that a Catholic organisation would argue that we shouldn’t teach something because it lacked scientific evidence given that the entire religion is completely reliant in ignoring scientific evidence, and I put out a tweet saying so. Yes, it was provocative, and yes, it was probably a bit childish but the reaction to it was nothing short of explosive and, at times, aggressive. In this episode, I want to talk about this issue and why it has polarised so many people against each other, so much so that nobody is listening to each other, and if I were the Minister for Education, how I would be talking about gender.
In part 2 of the interview, we start to tackle some difficult questions about the Irish language and why we aren't close to being a bilingual nation. We end up with a couple of interesting ideas, including one that we might try out some time!
For our Seachtain na Gaeilge special, I brought in some passionate Gaelgóirí to speak to me about the Irish language and the education system. I really wanted to delve in deeply to a number of areas and I hope you enjoy the outcome. In fact, we talked so much, we've had to divide the interview into two parts. Here is part 1!You can find my guests here:Julian: @CnaG | @juleser1 | Siobhain: @siobhaingrogan | Muireann: 
According to ChatGPT, the key differences between ET schools and Catholic schools are related to their religious ethos, curriculum, inclusivity, and management structures. ET schools prioritize equality, inclusivity, and child-centered learning, while Catholic schools may have a different focus on religious doctrine and values.According to many Catholic schools and parents that their kids there, sure there's barely any difference really. So what do we do in multidenominational schools and is it very different to Catholic and other faith schools? Join me as I go through a month of teaching in a multid school and you might be surprised.
Schools are complex places and teaching and learning can only take place when the classroom is in a place where this is able to happen. In the bad old days, a teacher’s job was to dole out discipline and this generally took the form of physical violence which then evolved to dark sarcasm in the classroom, to quote Pink Floyd. However, like most things in education, everything evolves and the 21st century has introduced us to better ways of doing almost everything, including how a classroom environment works, and teachers won’t be surprised to hear that it’s now all down to relationships. Restorative practices have been around for a number of years but one teacher decided she wanted to spread the word as far as she could and made the big decision to leave the classroom and has become one of the most well-known voices of RP. I was lucky enough to be contacted by Michelle Stowe for a nice chat about all things RP. If you’d like to know more about Resorative Practice and start that journey, there’s no better place to start than attending The ConnectRP eConference on Saturday 4th March 2023. Simply google Connect RP or go to for more information.
There are so many rumours and myths about multidenominational schools, Educate Together ones in particular, it really was no surprise, to me, why many parents, even if they reject the tenets of the Catholic faith, will prefer a Catholic school to a non-Catholic one. I thought it would be interesting to list the myths I have heard over the years about them, many of which were parroted during the Malahide fiasco to convince people that diversifying schools is a bad idea: all twenty-three of them! Some will require a bit of explanation, and others, let’s just say speak for themselves.
Whatever our feelings on wellbeing in schools, it will become part of the new curriculum. I was lucky to be approached by Úna Ryan and Denise Enright from REMind Ed™ who shared their wealth of knowledge on wellbeing as well as chatting to me about their product Mind Moments.
To Dee from Raheny

To Dee from Raheny


The last story of 2022 concerned the reduction of religious instruction from 2.5 hours per week to 2 hours per week in the upcoming new primary curriculum. Lobby groups such as Education Equality and Atheist Ireland (and people like me) were unhappy that this tokenistic move was even newsworthy as it change almost nothing about the indoctrination of children in most schools. However, Dee from Raheny was not happy about the use of the word "indoctrination" and wrote a letter to the Irish Times denying any indoctrination occurs in her class. In fairness, Dee represents the vast majority of people in Ireland so I'm not picking on her. However, this episode is my response to her letter.
With the number of people in Ireland identifying as Christian decreasing in the last decade, (CSO, 2016), with notable increases in the population of Muslims and Hindus, (95% and 135.6% increase respectively since 2006), primary schools around the country now host an increasing number of pupils that do not celebrate Christian festivals, such as Christmas. However 95% of Irish primary schools are under the ethos of either a Catholic or other Christian denomination, where Christmas is taught as a religious and historical event. Even outside of Christian schools, such as Educate Together, Christmas celebrations “can be a sensitive issue,” where they must “attempt to strike a balance between celebrating Christmas, and taking care not to give it dominance over other religious festivals,” This has proved, in recent years, to have caused some controversy with the organisation feeling forced to provide clarification on how it provides lessons on Christmas. In this episode, I’m going to explore why Christmas is now becoming a bit of a controversial subject in schools and what I would do if I were the Minister for Education.
Don't be put off by the title: to me, the Children's School Lives reports are some of the most fascinating insights to primary education produced. This report focuses on the transition between preschool and primary education. In this episode I explore some of the things we should learn as primary teachers as well as learning what Irish parents think about primary education. I'm not often made speechless but I was shocked at some of the findings.
The long awaited IPPN report on their Roadmap to Sustainability was released at their annual conference in Killarney, Co. Kerry last week. I finally managed to delve into its 130+ pages and see what thoughts I might have as I read through it.Overall it's a good report but there was one glaring omission, which may scupper the whole thing in the end.
In part 2 of this exploration of the Finnish Education System, I discover just what it is that sets them apart from Ireland.
I fulfilled an educational ambition to visit Finland and learn about what's known as the "Finnish Miracle" - that is, how did Finland become the best education system in the world. Over the next two weeks, I'm going to share what I discovered and why I think Ireland could easily be the best in the world.
In Part 1, we explored why Father Sheehy did nothing wrong when he preached from the altar and why what he did is no better than what isn't taught in Irish primary schools - i.e. what I call sin by omission. Join me in Part 2 where I talk about why the Catholic Church still had huge power, even in liberal areas of Dublin and what you can do if you're not happy about it.
Recently a sermon from a Catholic priest was live-streamed and recorded from a church in Listowel and it went viral. The sermon was from a priest called Father Sheehy and in his sermon, he decried same sex relationships, contraception, trans rights among other things that fall under, for want of a better term, the terms and conditions of Catholic dogma. It became national news with most of the population of Ireland calling him out from beneath the altar. Regular listeners to this podcast won’t need me to tell you that while I completely disagree with his views, he didn’t say anything that was against the Catholic church’s teaching and when you take away the tone of his sermon, it isn’t any different to what is being taught in most Irish primary schools. Naturally many of you won’t agree with this so in this episode I’m going to make that case and use this opportunity to explain that if I were the Minister for Education, why we need to remove all religious influence from schools in Ireland.
AON F-up Eile - Part 3

AON F-up Eile - Part 3


In the final part of this episode, we reach the end of the debacle where the partners agree to "pause" the process. I almost finish reading the INTO response before I can't take any more spin and give up and wish the whole thing was all a dream.
AON F-up Eile - Part 2

AON F-up Eile - Part 2


In Part 2 of this episode, we look at the latecomers to the opposition to the AON debacle and wonder why it took them so long.
AON F-up Eile - Part 1

AON F-up Eile - Part 1


This is the story of one week in the education system, not an average week, but one which demonstrates the contempt that representative bodies have for teachers, school staff and children. In this part, we learn a little bit about the Assessment of Need debacle and why parents and school staff joined together to try and stop the NCSE from causing further damage to children.
This rather innocent looking Information Note landed in principals' inboxes not more than a couple of hours ago. However, its sole job is to land more work on the desks of schools. Because the HSE can't do their job properly with Assessment of Need, a court order decided that to address the mess-up, a certain agency would be put in charge of it. Guess who they picked?
This week there was an article in the Irish Times featuring two people that recently stepped away from principalship. In this week's episode I look at the evidence and analyse why so many principals are handing in the keys of the building and who is ultimately responsible.
Comments (3)

Claire Romito

Loved the first episode on Finland Simon and I'm really looking forward to listening to this one too!

Nov 27th
Reply (1)

rozz lewis

Excellent first episode!

Mar 3rd
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