THE END OF AN ERA…

…..Of my belief and trust in the Education system in Ireland.

I started my son in an all Irish School in Dublin when he turned four years of age on the 16th September 1993. I was a super proud young Mammy of 25 years old. He was a quiet lad who liked nothing more than playing with his tractors in the muck and dirt. But he was a bright kid and I felt he was well able for school at such a young age. He walked steadily on his first birthday and at two and a half years he had very clear words that grew into very descriptive conversations. In the early nineties, it was common for Irish children to go straight to school instead of a prior year in play school. I realised after a couple of years that my son may have been a little emotionally immature to begin school at age four, but he was progressing well in Maths and reading and had made friends, so I didn’t worry too much about it. Overall, the school principal and teachers seemed to be really pleasant and fair and I was happy with the system of Education. The same opinion applied when my second child, born in 1995 went into school, I was happy with the program and although she had dyslexia, she progressed very well academically.

There’s always been an element of control inside school doors. I don’t have to convince you of the need to be able to control hundreds of children in order for them to be quietened so that the teachers can educate them. It’s important though to keep control levels proportionate while continuing to allow impressionable children’s personalities flower. Teachers have a hard task to keep their own personal feelings and emotions in check, so as not to take advantage of their positions in authority. In my experience as a parent, this authority in the school environment has been fair and balanced. We’ve come along way from my father’s generation who suffered beatings in the 50’s for disobedience in school. Likewise when I was a school child in the 70’s, the beatings were deemed unnecessary and were downgraded to ten slaps on the palm of one’s hand. I personally never felt unfairly punished and so never developed a chip on my shoulder. I’ve no doubt that many Irish parents and teachers tireless efforts are responsible for the revamping of the Irish school system from a place of authoritarian teaching to one that repels physical punishment. My children experienced this wonderful fear free school atmosphere throughout their educational years.

My third child came along on the 2nd of September 2004. I decided to wait until she was six to send her to school, as she had delayed development. At age five and three weeks old, after two years on the waiting list, My youngest child was assessed by Louise McDonagh, a very good speech and language psychologist in Dunboyne Health Care centre. Louise diagnosed my daughter with severe communication and language disorder. This meant that my daughter couldn’t comprehend tasks or commands. This helped explain my daughter’s anxiety and tantrums in her few short years of life. Her confusion to sounds, situations and travel caused her a lot of frustration. A car journey caused chronic vomiting. A trip on an aeroplane caused massive hysteria. And so began a long road of private assessments and support resources for my daughter. As a mother of a child with quite severe learning difficulties, it was very important for me to find a good school where she would be educated to her full potential. She began Rathbeggan National school in 2010, where the teachers, resource, principal and all the staff worked tirelessly to educate and support her. I could never fault them. They were also super support to myself as there were occasions that I found exhausting and difficult, but I knew that when I dropped her into school that she was in a happy environment. That was the priority for me. I also researched any area that I could help my daughter outside school and found that good nutrition and exercise was so important for good brain and body function, so I began cooking only healthy food in the home. It was a lot of hard work because we had entered an era of plentiful. There was so much available colourful sugary food on offer to tantalise children. I found that to cover her social awkwardness, my daughter would eat compulsively. Sugar as we know now is the secret poison that our children become addicted too. And I could see that there was a connection to my daughter’s cognitive disability and her compulsiveness to eat sugary foods.

My daughter began first year in a popular secondary school in September 2018. It took a bit of adjusting to as the volume and capacity of the school was so much grander than primary school. The content of work was also greater, but again, the teachers were very supportive and she soon settled in. I was happy that my youngest daughter liked going to school. I knew that mixing with other teens in a healthy environment full of fun, sport and enjoyable education was really good for her socially and also her communication skills. I liked what the school stood for, to support educational fulfilment in a place where dreams and aspirations would be encouraged and applauded.

That all changed on 13th March 2020, when the Government closed all the schools and colleges, because of an alleged pandemic. I never believed that there was a pandemic because basically, there was no increase in deaths in any country. I was really upset about the school closure because I knew that my daughter’s education was being decimated. The offered tutorials from the school for the duration of the school year was sadly ill-equipped to administer proper education. It was down to a motivated teen to self educate, or a mother who had all the time in the world to replace the role of teacher in the home. Either way, it caused a lot of stress while my daughter tried to adjust to a new social deprivation from other teens.

It was with a heavy heart that I listened to the news that the schools would reopen in September 2020, with mandatory masks, extreme sanitation and social distancing. This was going to be detrimental to my daughter’s communication and social education, never mind her lung health. How on Earth could this be allowed? There can’t be one teacher that agrees that masks should be worn on teachers and pupils! (Just in addition, there wasn’t one death of any child in an Irish school related to the Corona Virus! So there was no justification to mask the kids.) School principals would know instinctively that this is a preventative tool in education, along with the banning of textbooks. I don’t know how they ever agreed to enforce it. I suspected that the masks would damage teens trust in the education system and they would soon rather stay home. Christmas Holidays 2020 came along and the schools were closed down again. It would be four months until the new changes were put in place in order for the children to be allowed back to school. This time forms had to be signed to say the child was cold or flu symptom free. Strict rules were enforced preventing teens turning sideways to talk to a peer in class. It seemed that in twelve months, the whole education system had been reverted back seventy years. The school building was no longer a place of enjoyable education. It had turned into something resembling a prison.

For the last fourteen months, my belief and trust in the Irish education system has been diminished. I’ve comforted my daughter through sleepless nights because of worry and anxiety. I’ve watched her come home exhausted and unmotivated. I’ve spent a small fortune on creams and vitamins to combat the constant face rashes from the masks. I witness the poor content of her un-corrected homework in her effort to keep up. I spent a large fortune on Maths and other subject grinds to try keep my daughter’s brain cognitive. As much as the teachers have done their best to adapt kindly to this new horrible way of educating my daughter and others, I wonder why they did not join together and resist it. Couldn’t they see that the changes that they were enforcing were not pro-active and were designed to stay? The constant brain washing on the speaker to socially distance at all times. That was designed to brainwash! Do you teachers really think that the Dept. of Education will just undo all of this expensive recordings to Re-brainwash the kids back to normal? As much as the principal believes that she is just following the Government Guidelines and is just doing her job, she relinquishes her responsibility as a leader of the school and as a leader of the children. Couldn’t she have gotten together with other school principals? And stood up for the present education system that was fought hard for by parents that had children abused by the previous education system? Have the Irish forgotten our past? As much as I know each of you teacher’s in my daughter’s school have been patient, quiet and polite while enforcing these new rules, it is still authoritarian, it is still abusing your authority, it is still child abuse. By agreeing to these new ways of teaching, you have agreed to instill fear and obedience into children under your care. I accept that you have done all you thought you could do and you probably think it’s all nearly back to normal anyway. I’m sure you’re all relieved that this school year 2020 is over, as am I. It’s been a very tough year on us all but above all, for the children. In the next school term, you are all going to be challenged with more new rules that you have to implement. I hope that by then that you will search into your hearts and souls for your instinct, guidance and strength, in order to Stand Up For My Daughter’s education and others and say No to this Child abuse.

Yours Sincerely

Jean Murray

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