Pot Quinn says kettle Burton is black June 6, 2011Posted by Tomboktu in Irish Politics, Ministers.
The Sindo reports that Ruairí Quinn has told his colleagues that they are not tackling difficult decisions quickly enough. The report says he had his Labour cabinet colleagues in mind, and Joan Burton in particular. If the report is true, then one of them needs to give him a good old-fashioned clip around the ears. Twice.
Quinn is the only one of the Labour ministers at the cabinet table to have transferred from being the party’s spokesperson in opposition on a Department to being the minister there. Unlike him, all of the others have had to learn the innards and nitty gritty of a new brief. Significant in that is getting their heads around the spending options, and when they do they will find that these are on shifting sands with the State’s finances not coming out of crisis any time soon.
His own ‘big ticket’ action has been to establish the cost-free forum on patronage in the primary sector. On the other commitments in the Programme for Government, it is difficult to find evidence of any action, particularly where they would improve the lives of the most disadvantaged in Ireland:
 Commitment: We will improve the quality of the pre-school year by implementing standards and reviewing training options.
 Commitment: [T]his Government will invest in a targeted early childhood education programme for disadvantaged children…
 Commitment: A priority in education will be to recruit, train and support the highest calibre of teachers
 Commitment: We will give greater freedom and autonomy to school principals and boards to raise educational standards by devolving more responsibility locally…
 Commitment: We will require schools, with the support of the Inspectorate, to draw up five year development plans for their schools and individual teachers
 Commitment: Administrative functions, relating to maintenance, school building projects and coordination of support services currently carried out by principals will be devolved locally…
 Commitment: We will review Junior and Leaving Certificate systems and implement reforms necessary to encourage greater innovation and independent learning
 Commitment: Professional development for maths and science teachers will be prioritised
 Commitment: The system for evaluating schools will be reformed so parents have access to more information when choosing a school for their family
 Commitment: A national literacy strategy for children and young people will be developed as a matter of urgency
Action announced: The Department intends to publish shortly a national literacy and numeracy strategy which will provide a continuum of measures designed to improve performance in these critical areas.
 Commitment: Pre-service and in-service training in teaching of literacy for all primary and secondary school teachers will be improved
 Commitment: The primary priority for investment in ICT in the immediate term will be the integration of ICT in teaching and learning across the curriculum and investing in broadband development to ensure schools have access to fibre-powered broadband
 Commitment: Greater use of online platforms will be made to offer a wide range of subjects and lessons online, and to enable schools to ‘share’ teachers via live web casts.
 Commitment: This Government will prioritise school building projects in a revised national development plan
 Commitment: The devolution of an annual capital budget to schools will be piloted to allow schools to plan for capital projects
 Commitment: The Department of Education’s central database of school accommodation will be overhauled
 Commitment: New schools will be built to grow with their communities and to provide for more interactive, child-friendly model of education.
 Commitment: We will negotiate the transfer of school infrastructure currently owned by 18 religious orders cited in Ryan Report, at no extra cost, to the State.
Commitment: We will examine how to make existing expenditure on educational disadvantage more effective.
Action announced: The decision to remove the Rural Co-ordinator Service from 331 rural DEIS schools was a measure taken by the last Government to secure some €24 million in savings in the 2011-2012 school year. The service will therefore be discontinued with effect from 31 August 2011. I do not intend to revisit the decision of the previous Government to withdraw rural coordinator posts.
 Commitment: We will publish a plan for the implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004 to prioritise access for children with special needs to an individual education plan.
 Commitment: We will reverse the cut to the number of psychologists in National Educational Psychological Service in Budget 2011
Action announced: To date some 175 psychologists are currently directly employed within my Department’s NEPS service and an additional three are due to take up duties shortly.
 Commitment: We will encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students [This commitment is must be important to the Government: they've made it twice in the Programme for Government.]
Action announced: I am currently considering [...] the establishment of a working group to help draft a roadmap towards the elimination of homophobic bullying from our schools. [Furthermore, Minister Quinn did not answer the specific question that was asked on this last in April about the number of inspections that would evaluate if the schools are taking adequate steps.
 Commitment: We will initiate a time-limited Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector to allow all stakeholders including parents to engage in open debate on change of patronage
Action announced: Started.
 Commitment: We will also move towards a more pluralist system of patronage at second level, recognising a wider number of patrons
Action announced: Educate Together is to be recognised as a patron of second-level schools