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You go first, no you go, no really – I insist – you go first… that public sector pay cut poll… November 19, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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crocodile said it most effectively about yesterday’s latest Irish Times poll, which trumpeted the finding that 53% of the public polled thought the public sector should emulate the Taoiseach and Ministers and take a 10% pay cut, here

And was there ever a more fatuous headline than today’s Irish Times lead: ‘Majority of voters back pay cut for public servants’.
What was the question I wonder?
Maybe ‘There’s a crisis in the public finances: who would you like to pay for it? a. You or b. Somebody else ‘?

And to see this reified in the Irish Times to the level of holy scripture, by… guess who, Stephen Collins is hardly a surprise.

He noted that:

A MAJORITY of voters believe that public servants should be asked to take a pay cut in response to the crisis in the public finances, according to the Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll.

There was a problem though, a big big problem. Although…

…the poll also showed that spending cuts rather than tax increases are favoured by a majority to deal with the crisis, but they also believe that the cuts announced in the Budget were too tough.

It’s tricky, because…

When voters were asked if the Government should place more emphasis on spending cuts or tax increases to deal with the financial crisis 52 per cent opted for spending cuts, while 32 per cent backed tax increases and 16 per cent had no opinion.

This view is shared across all social classes and regions.

Which is sort of easy when you think about it. Financial crisis? Cut away. The problem being, what and where.

Start to throw out elements of the budget, or even just remind people of the budget, our most recent exercise in this sort of thing and suddenly people draw back (not entirely surprising, since the Budget is the reason Fianna Fáil’s poll rating has dived – and if FF are bad because of their Budget, a Budget that introduced significant cuts, then logically the Budget was bad because of the cuts. Cue cognitive dissonance and a wish to find someone else to take the strain). Education, health, welfare provision, increased wages in the public sector. Wait a minute there. Increased wages in the public sector. Feck them, let’s cut wages, particularly if the question is a loaded one as regards 10% wage cuts taken by Cowen and the Cabinet.

But let’s work it through a bit more. Brian Cowen has a good wage. No, wait, Brian Cowen has a great wage. €310,000. Let’s note that to lose, say, €31,000 of that isn’t going to see him out on his uppers. He’ll still be making more than the President of the United States.

And so it is with our senior politicians in government.

Whereas 10% cuts for the more humble public servants, well, you get my gist.

And let me reiterate, I’m entirely in favour of a wage freeze in the public sector on both salary and increments – and since I work on contracts in those areas I’m not doing myself any favours by advocating same.

But back to the poll…

So those advocating fiscal pain for all others were hitting a brick wall as regards their own wishes and demands.

Still, note too the following…

When voters were asked if they were prepared to pay more in taxation to ensure there is no reduction in public services the result is a little closer, with 49 per cent saying they are not prepared to pay more in tax while 43 per cent say they are and 10 per cent have no opinion.

I guess it’s not much to build a progressive consensus on in the current era, but it’s something. And it points up that nuance in this is everything. It’s easy to shout for spending cuts over tax increases until the result of those cuts are made plain. And then the picture begins to shift somewhat.

Remarkable too the cognitive dissonance exemplified in the following…

Voters in the most well-off AB social category, which is most strongly in favour of spending cuts, are far more willing to pay more tax to protect public services than any other group. The strongest resistance to paying any more tax comes from the least well-off DE social category.

There’s an awful lot of confusion out there. And to read that:

People in all age categories, including the over-65s, also opted for spending cuts rather than tax increases. Supporters of all political parties, except Labour, who are almost equally divided, also take this view.

… is a near heart-breaking indictment of the state of our left and it’s influence more broadly in a society where public good has been weakened consistently across the last two decades.

Some oddities, Sinn Féin voters were in favour of cuts, but… “…they feel that there should not be a reduction in public sector pay.”

And here is a fascinating nugget which may give at least a partial explanation as to how the Green Party has remained remarkably buoyant in the polls, at least until recently…

Among party supporters the Green Party was the only one where a majority felt [the Budget] was about right or not tough enough.

I genuinely don’t know what to make of it. Was the poll sample to small to reflect the generality of opinion within the GP, or is this a pointer to something else? If I have a suspicion it is this, those within the GP that I know appear to be wedded to a language of economic ‘pragmatism’. I can’t be certain but it seems to me that this is the result of a party with a fairly unclear view of economic activity and that this has fed into the sort of ‘hard-headed’ analysis reflected here. It’s quite something when the GP will tacitly underwrite a Budget generally regarded as functionally (as well as politically) one of the worst to be presented before the Irish people.

But perhaps there is a sense that, this Budget as well as this Government, is in some sense ‘theirs’, to be supported through thick and thin. It’s true what the commentators are saying, this can only end in pain, but I’m wondering for who, at least on the political level.

Comments»

1. ejh - November 19, 2008

49 per cent saying they are not prepared to pay more in tax while 43 per cent say they are and 10 per cent have no opinion.

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2. Jim Monaghan - November 19, 2008

On the public service pay cut.
If it happens it should be graded. eg 10% for the grade 1s and 9% for grade 2s etc.You can see that I intend the the low paid do not take a hit.
Oh by the way the highest paid are grade 1 and above. Plus an end to the bonuses which are restricted to our betters.
I am personally for a redundancy scheme. There is a bit of fat in some places. Plus it would allow some new people in at the bottom of pay scales.
On taxes and services. Gaybo once said that he would not allow a commentator ask for a tax reduction wothout them specifying where the cut would come and vice versa.Everything comes with a price. We are already as a nation paying extra interest above the Germans on our National debt because of the Bank guarantee. This premium will go up when we bail them out.
That should mean that we should get a very significant % of the banks when it is done.

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3. Joe - November 19, 2008

I have worked in the public service for 25 years. Over that period every national pay deal (for public and private sector) has involved percentage wage increases, with a few tokenistic tokens for people on very, very low wages. In other words, the unions (and their members who voted for them) have connived at increasing the real differences in pay between those at the top and the bottom of the pile. That is, x% of e.g. 100,000 is a lot more than x% of 20,000. So the person on the higher salary gets a higher increase.
I remember debates at union agms when there would be a proposal that the union should support fixed rate increases for the lower paid. Someone would ask for a definition of the lower paid. To which all would say: “everyone on my rate of pay and below”.
I know it’s simplistic but I’m with Robin Hood and Jesse James at this and at all times: Take from the rich and give to the poor. A corollary of that is: If the rich ain’t squealing, then it ain’t socialism.

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4. Eagle - November 19, 2008

WBS,

It’s not necessarily the level of pay among those in the public and civil service as the numbers. Between March 2004 & March 2007 the numbers employed in education went from 86,700 to 97,400. That’s a 12% rise in the numbers employed? Why? Over the same period the numbers in full time education (1st, 2nd & 3rd levels combined) went from 936,750 to 963535, a difference of 3%.

So, why have we got 12% more people working in a sector that has grown by only 3%?

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5. Eagle - November 19, 2008

And, I should note that the average earnings in education went from €786.39 to €901.1 – a 14% rise at a time when the numbers employed were growing by 12%.

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6. smiffy - November 19, 2008

Eagle,

The increase in numbers employed in education relative to the numbers actually in education only appears anomalous if one takes as read that staffing levels in March 2004 were sufficient to meet the demand. If an historic underinvestment in education was being addressed in those three years, then there would be nothing remarkable about the figures you quote.

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7. Eagle - November 19, 2008

If an historic underinvestment in education was being addressed in those three years, then there would be nothing remarkable about the figures you quote.

Seeing as the education sector was always great at claiming credit for the Celtic Tiger, I have to assume that there was no underinvestment during the period leading up the boom. So, there was no need for that increase in numbers.

And, I only picked March 2004 randomly from the report so that it would be an exact 3 years to the final data as of March 2007.

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8. Eagle - November 19, 2008

By the way, what have the Regional Bodies done to deserve a 28.4% increase in average weekly earnings over the same 3 year period?

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9. Eagle - November 19, 2008

Just found the 2008 statistics. The numbers employed in education increased by another 3.8% from March 2007 to March 2008. Underinvestment still an issue? And, the average wages went up by 3.5%

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10. Garibaldy - November 19, 2008

These statistics are all interesting. But I’d like to see them broken down by sector; by nature of employment – I suspect a great deal of them are in postgraduate and postdoctoral work, and temporary work, that is far from the cushy number they might seem in first glance; and how these rises compare to those of others. If a strategic goal is to reduce class size, then more jobs seem likely surely?

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11. Eagle - November 19, 2008

Garibaldy,

Look, whether they’re “cushy numbers” or not doesn’t matter. They’re a cost and one that should be scaled back. Our economy is in retreat, the education sector should be too.

And, if you’re right, how does that explain the rise in average earnings while the numbers were rising? Surely if the jobs being created were low earners, the average wages would have fallen. No?

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12. Eagle - November 19, 2008

And, just to clarify, I don’t agree that teaching or working with school kids is cushy. It can be tough. That doesn’t mean we should be throwing money at it, however.

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13. Garibaldy - November 19, 2008

Why should education be scaled back? It’s a strategic investment, right? Or so we are repeatedly told. The south is adopting the opposite tactics to the UK, the US, and many other countries that are trying to prime the pump, borrowing if necessary. Why is this the right thing to do? All this is based on a certain level of taxation, taxation that has seen obscene amounts of money made over the last decade and a half with relatively little tax paid. Why not hit those who profiteered?

BTW, some of the pay in the southern state sector is obscenely high. I wouldn’t dispute that. But I suspect it will be the people near the bottom to be hit worst.

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14. Eagle - November 19, 2008

Garibaldy

I don’t want to pick on you, but I’ve seen similar comments many times. So, how do you propose taxing people who made “obscene amounts of money” over the past 15 years if they’ve spent it and they’re no longer earning it? What if they haven’t spent it? Are you suggesting some form of wealth tax? If yes, why restrict it to those earned their money over the past 15 years? Why not simply get on with it and tax everyone who owns a mortgage-free home, etc.?

I’m actually not averse to switching the tax burden from income to property, but there seems little appetite here for such a change.

And, I’m not a big believer in the “strategic investment” argument with regards to education. I think free third level should be abolished (and I’m just now at the point where I can the benefit of that ludicrous decision). Education is important for all sorts of reasons, but simply to provide well trained automatons for a transient tech industry or whatever is not one of them.

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15. Garibaldy - November 19, 2008

I have little problem Eagle with seriously raising taxes for those with serious money by whatever means it takes. Whether that is a one off levy on the super-rich as suggested by Michael Taft building on Donald Trump’s idea, or raising the general rate of taxation. I see no reason why the construction magnates who have corrupted government at state and local level, and had their speculations faciltiated at every level (at the cost, let’s not forget, or numerous lives in the building trade during the 1990s), should get away scot-free while the state sector is massivel punished.

You mightn’t be a big believer in the strategic investment argument. But the point is that the government has been making it ad infinitum, and so should put its money where its mouth is. I agree entirely about transient tech industry. Use some of the taxes on the very well off to start native, state owned industries that build on the skills left behind by those transient corporations.

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16. smiffy - November 19, 2008

“Seeing as the education sector was always great at claiming credit for the Celtic Tiger, I have to assume that there was no underinvestment during the period leading up the boom.”

To be honest, I don’t think that’s a great basis for the assumption, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it assumes that the education sector was solely responsible for the Celtic Tiger (do you believe that)? Secondly, it treats the entire education sector as a single entity. If, for example, it was only the tertiary sector that was a significant factor in the economic boom, but (again, for example) it was only the primary sector which saw an increase in numbers then the calculations would be meaningless. Finally, it’s assumes that the purpose of education is the creation of ‘the Celtic Tiger’. That’s a pretty narrow definition.

Why not use, for example, meangingful statistical comparisons from something like the OECD?

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17. Omar Little - November 19, 2008

IN the USA, heartland of capitalism, you cannot be an American citizen, super rich or not, unless you pay taxes there. The Irish tax-exiles, Denis O’Brien and JP McManus et al should be asked to either surrender their passports or pay taxes like the rest of us.

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18. ejh - November 19, 2008

“Seeing as the education sector was always great at claiming credit for the Celtic Tiger, I have to assume that there was no underinvestment during the period leading up the boom.”

To be honest, I don’t think that’s a great basis for the assumption, for a couple of reasons…..

It’s also a silly argument anyway because if you’ve succeeded and you find a reason why you did so, you’re not likely to stop doing it, you’re likely to do more of it. If investment in education was given some of the credit for subsequent economic growth, then it would have been perfectly logical to consider further spending in that sector as a good and necessary investment.

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19. Forrestreid - November 19, 2008

Just because the underfunded Irish education system of the 80’s and 90’swas good enough to create the Celtic tiger does not mean it would have been good enough to create the 21st century economy. Therefore one cannot argue that the education system didn’t need extra resources in this decade.

The education system did different things then compared to now, and the things it does nowadays are more expensive.

Ways it is different include:

1) The education system did not have to educate a huge number of non-native English speakers then. The period Eagle refers to (2004 to 2008) was the period when speakers of foreign tongues was soaring in Irish schools, and so therefore was the number of English support teachers was soaring too.

2) Children with learning difficulties were hardly bothered about then, there is a genuine effort to teach them now. When i went to school in the Eighties I sat beside a kid who was “remedial” . I think he was due to get something like 20 or 30 hours of remedial education a week, anyone who went through the Irish education system of the Eighties will not be surprised to hear that he actually got about one hour every second week.Therefore he left primary school more or less illiterate, occupied a desk in a secondary for a year and went to work on a building site in England when he was 14. (he worked for an uncle off the books). The failure to educate him did not hold Ireland back in the early Celtic tiger years because there were 300,000 young people on the dole who had not been “remedial” in school.

But in the future there will be less work for illiterates, and the parents of such kids will not take failure of schools to educate their children lying down.

So it will be that bit harder to educate the children of Ireland on the cheap in the future.

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20. crocodile - November 19, 2008

A large number of more recent employees in first and second level education have been special needs assistants, language teachers for non-nationals. Ireland had hardly any provision for such things, in education, until the last few years. Hence the increase in employee numbers without decrease in pupil/teacher ratio. Why the need for so many SNAs? Decades of underinvestment.
Average earnings increase because of the incremental nature of teaching salaries. Most secondary school managers will tell you they’re worried about the rising age profile. Primary school heads say they can’t hang on to young teachers, especially women. ‘Cushy number?’ says my niece’s principal. ‘I can’t get anyone to stay longer than a year.’
Anyway, Eagle, love the naivete of your assumption that education would not be facing cuts if it was so productive. Cuts in Ireland have nothing to do with justice, common sense or strategy – it’s a question of what you can get away with. Identify an easy target – one that isn’t popular in phone-ins – and cut it. That’s the Irish way.

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21. WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2008

I’d be very strongly of the opinion that the system was underfunded. Look at national schools, to a degree look at secondary schools. There is an argument about Third Level as regards fees, but I tend to the universal free at access argument there with payment through general taxation… societal outcomes seem better.

But look, almost no-one is arguing that there should be no impacts on anyone at all, it’s the nature of those impacts which is where the discussion lies. To me a wage freeze would be of genuine utility in generating a sense of solidarity across all workers as long as those on higher incomes also participate through taxation on their income. Sauce for goose, sauce for gander.

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22. Eagle - November 19, 2008

smiffy,

I was being flippant with that line about the Celtic Tiger. Sorry about that.

However, there is a question as to how one measures or declares that we had an ‘underinvestment’ in education. I only brought up the recent increases because I was willing to go some way along the “we didn’t do enough in the past” mode.

If you look at the years 1995-2007 you’ll see that the number of primary students went from 486,000 to 477,00 while the number employed in the sector went from 21,400 to 35,200. In secondary you’ll see that the number of students went from 373,000 to 337,000. Yet those employed at second level went from 34,500 to 47,400.

Those two changes represent a massive increase in spending per student, but what measurables do we have that says the money’s being well spent? And, a comparison with other OECD countries is irrelevant because (a) we have no way of knowing whether those other countries are getting value for their money and (b) we don’t have any way of saying whether we’re getting value for money.

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23. Eagle - November 19, 2008

Forrestreid,

I accept what you say about the Eighties and remedial kids. I couldn’t find employment numbers going that far back, but just looking at the increases in employees since the mid 90s, my guess is that there were far fewer employees at second level when you were there than there were by 1995. And, that’s despite the fact that the numbers in second-level education in 1985/86 were nearly identical to the numbers in 2006/07. Somewhere the needs of the remedial children should have been met.

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24. Eagle - November 19, 2008

Most secondary school managers will tell you they’re worried about the rising age profile. Primary school heads say they can’t hang on to young teachers, especially women. ‘Cushy number?’ says my niece’s principal. ‘I can’t get anyone to stay longer than a year.’

One of the great difficulties is that we have no way of knowing whether your niece’s principal (or any principal) is doing a good job or not. Often employees will leave a place of employment that’s badly managed. That might have little to do with rates of pay.

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25. Garibaldy - November 19, 2008

If the experience is the same across the sector, it suggests that if there is bad management, it is at above the level of the individual school. Which means government. Although when it comes to teachers, there is also the point of changed cultures among teenagers and parents, and what is expected of teachers, which is becoming ridiculous.

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26. Niall - November 19, 2008

“Seeing as the education sector was always great at claiming credit for the Celtic Tiger, I have to assume that there was no underinvestment during the period leading up the boom.”

There’s no debating to be had on this issue. If you comapre Irish expenditure on education to the OECD averages over the past few decades, you’ll see that Ireland spent far below the average. No, we can’t speak as to specifics regarding the value for money attained in other systems, but it’d take a really unique individual to suggest that if you’re languishing at the bottom of the European league table for education spending that it wouldn’t affect the quality of education provision unless for some reason, there was something amazingly different about the Irish system. The consensus amoung the experts in education is that children learn more in smaller class sizes, so it’s reasonable to assume that the Irish underinvestment in education, coupled with large class sizes meant that Irish children were doing worse than they might otherwise have.

One bonus that the Irish system had was that, for historical reasons, a large number of high quality candidates became teachers. It was looked upon as a good job that came with a large amount of respectability, moreso than in other countries. Perhaps that helped in certain respects, but that is no longer the case.

“If you look at the years 1995-2007 you’ll see that the number of primary students went from 486,000 to 477,00 while the number employed in the sector went from 21,400 to 35,200. In secondary you’ll see that the number of students went from 373,000 to 337,000. Yet those employed at second level went from 34,500 to 47,400.”

As has been pointed out elsewhere, the increase can be explained by a number of factors. The numbers quoted may include many of the following:

Language Assistants
Special Needs Assistants
Speech and Language Therapists
Occupational Therapists
Teachers
Principals
Escorts
Substitute teachers

Over the past few years, language assistants, previously unheard of, were employed in large numbers. Many schools finally got around to starting the process of integrating special needs students into their schools which meant that more SNAs were needed. I remember that as of 2007, we had the highest classroom sizes in Europe, with the exception of the UK, who used classroom assistants to a greater extent than elsewhere, so it’s pretty clear that even if teachers were employed in far larger numbers over the period you’ve spoken of Eagle, it still hadn’t corrected for the historical underinvestment. The only thing that the above figures show is that we don’t have enough information to analyse the efficeny of government spending on education in a proper manner.

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27. Eagle - November 19, 2008

There’s no debating to be had on this issue.

Well, that’s that then.

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28. Eagle - November 19, 2008

Okay, I can’t resist. I can’t find the OECD figures online. Can you tell me what statistics they use to compare one country’s education expenditure with another? Is it simply the spend per student? Or do they adjust the wages budgets to account for variations in standards of living?

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29. Eagle - November 19, 2008

As has been pointed out elsewhere, the increase can be explained by a number of factors. The numbers quoted may include many of the following:

Language Assistants
Special Needs Assistants
Speech and Language Therapists
Occupational Therapists
Teachers
Principals
Escorts
Substitute teachers

And, my point is that all of these add up to an awful lot and we should consider whether we overextended ourselves in this area. Sure, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have to make such judgments, but we do. So, how do we assess whether these escorts, extra teachers, assistants are actually accomplishing anything?

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30. crocodile - November 20, 2008

This is a useful thread because it gets to the heart of what public expenditure is all about and we owe gratitude to Eagle for acting as a sounding board.
Is there any point in stating the obvious: that teachers and nurses and guards are not more important than people who work in coffee shops or sell double glazing, but….. what they do is more important? Across the board cuts are stupid because they treat vital services as if they were discretionary spending and irreplacable professionals as if they were as dispensible and replacable as casual labour.

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31. Eagle - November 20, 2008

Is there any point in stating the obvious: that teachers and nurses and guards are not more important than people who work in coffee shops or sell double glazing, but….. what they do is more important?

I’d agree with that, which is why it’s actually more important to be able say who is and who isn’t doing a good job and which resources are well used and which aren’t.

If you talk to teachers you’ll realize that there’s a lot of dead weight in the teaching profession. Parents know this too. But, whereas the the coffee shop boss will get rid of anyone who doesn’t do the job, that’s not happening in teaching. And, if the coffee shop adds a lot of new staff and services they’ll know pretty quickly whether these investments were worth it or not.

We have no way of knowing if added investment in education is really worthwhile or not. And, most of all, if a coffee shop is badly run the staff knows and the customers know – and they stay away. The boss loses his job or his business. When was the last time a principal was fired because he wasn’t doing his job or was simply not up to it?

There’s far more investment in measuring the performance of professional athletes than in measuring the performance of schools, principals and teachers. All that computerized data simply to facilitate new coaching techniques, graphics on a television screen and fantasy sports.

And don’t for one second believe I don’t realize that there’s a lot of trouble measuring success in schools, but does that mean we shouldn’t try?

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32. crocodile - November 20, 2008

‘measuring success in schools’
there’s a task. In one school, it’s getting a majority of pupils through to Junior Cert; in another it’s grinding out maximum points and ‘feeding’ Trinity and UCD. The media, with their points race supplements, think it’s generating fodder for universities and employers.
I don’t see a problem with ‘measuring success in schools’ but who’s to do the measuring? Accountants? Politicians? The Sunday Times?
The truth is that the countries with the best educational outcomes, as measured by literacy and numeracy levels, have low pupil/teacher ratios, highly-qualified and -paid teachers, a minimum of inspection.
Educational professionals set and maintain standards. I know such things are anathema to management scientists and ‘accountability’ fetishists, but, well, Eagle, you did ask.
And, incidentally, my teaching relatives tell me that there may have been ‘dead weight’ in the teaching profession 20 years ago, but those days are gone. The bloke with his feet on the desk and the racing page open wouldn’t last ten minutes nowadays.Mind you, the spectre of the burnt-out teacher will return if Batt O’Keeffe intends to persist in his closing off of all early retirement strands.

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33. ejh - November 20, 2008

But, whereas the the coffee shop boss will get rid of anyone who doesn’t do the job

I have to say I’ve spent a certain amount of my life in coffee shops and they’re not really the go-ahead places with dynamic employees that one would believe from this: It comes straight from the bag of “claims people make about the private sector which may suit them but do not really match reality”.

Of course the rason for this is that coffe shop wages do not quite match those of, say ,a Wall Street lawyer: motivation levels (and indeed skill levels) are correspondingly lower. And there’s a similar problem as regards teaching, which is that if you wanted better teachers and to get rid of the legendary “dead weight” then you’d need to offer substantially better conditions – that being the market, and all. And it’s a funny thing about people who talk enthusiastically about the market – they’re swift to note that hiring and firing is harder in the public sector, but slower to note that if they wanted to impove output they would need to apply the carrots of the market as enthusiastically as the stick. Oddly, though, here, we’re talking about improving performance while simultanerously taking the carrots away. ¡Qué raro!

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34. Niall - November 20, 2008

“And, my point is that all of these add up to an awful lot and we should consider whether we overextended ourselves in this area. Sure, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have to make such judgments, but we do. So, how do we assess whether these escorts, extra teachers, assistants are actually accomplishing anything?”

Without the escorts, some of the kids couldn’t attend school. Without special needs assistants, teachers wouldn’t be able to cope with special needs students in schools. Many studies have shown different forms of speech and language therapy to be highly effective. Many studies have shown that having a small teacher/pupil ratio is better for children. Without education psychologists we couldn’t give children education assessments. Without language assistants teachers would have no way of communicating with certain students.

The list I made (and it’s hardly an exhaustive list) can be divided into two categories. The necessary and the useful. If your aim is to find a basis on which to assess the usefulness of these education professionals, it’s pretty simple.

Escorts, educational psychologists and the like are necessary. The child can’t get to the classroom without them. You can’t really dispose of them without denying children their right to an education.

Speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, special needs assistants and extra teachers fall into the second category. We don’t need to carry out assessments of their effectiveness because that’s been done for us already. There are many studies that testify to the effectiveness of OT, SLT, low class-teacher ratios etc. We have no real reason to believe that somehow the effects observed in many other differing education systems would not be observed here.

Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that the performance of individuals should not be evaluated and reviewed, I’m just pointing out that, for example, while an individual OT might underperform, the empirical record informs us that OT itself is effective, so until we get compelling evidence that would indicate an incompatibility between OT and the Irish educational system and/or people, we can assume that an investment in OT will be of benefit to the nation.

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35. Jim Monaghan - November 21, 2008

Niall makes some excellent point on support staff. I would add that the excessively long holidays undo a lot of the work done during the school year.
In Boston I gather that kids are accessed every year and if deemed in need of extra support are offered an input over the holidays.
In Ireland the upper classes do this as an extra anyway with the Gaeltacht and language classes over the summer.

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36. ejh - November 21, 2008

Don’t they do those as summer camps? I once heard these described as having as their main purpose “whitewater rafting and sexual experimentation”.

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37. Jim Monaghan - November 24, 2008

Apologies I meant assessed every year.
Oh When I was in School coeducation was denounced as leading to all sorts of bad things.

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38. Eagle - November 24, 2008

Sorry, I had to ‘step out’ for a while. Not sure anyone will want to take this up again, but I guess I will.

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39. Eagle - November 24, 2008

The truth is that the countries with the best educational outcomes, as measured by literacy and numeracy levels, have low pupil/teacher ratios, highly-qualified and -paid teachers, a minimum of inspection.

crocodile,

Have you got links to studies that prove this? And, how do you separate the falling pupil/teacher ratios from the falling population of school age children? Are there measurements to show how countries have better results when their class sizes fall that take account of (a) fewer children per family and (b) fewer children of school age?

I’ve read many times that class size doesn’t really matter, other than in specific circumstances. Here’s a short column from the New Statesman (your side, not mine) that says as much.

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40. Eagle - November 24, 2008

ejh,

Yes, despite the poor wage levels in some coffee shops at least the coffee shop owner/manager can tell if he’s doing a good job. How? By his profits.

How do you propose to know if a school is failing or not?

I’d be quite happy to raise the pay rates for teachers if (a) they worked in conditions where their performances could be assessed and those who are lagging be paid less and those who are total failures were let go AND (b) where principals & vice principals had the same job security as any coffee shop manager. In other words, principals should not have job-for-life security. They should be easy to dismiss and paid well for success. They should be able to hire, promote and fire anyone who doesn’t do their job to the full.

Teachers who are willing to work with bigger classes should be rewarded. Teachers who are willing to teach the most difficult should be rewarded. Etc.

Maybe it’s too pie-in-the-sky to hope that we could come up with a system that is fair to principals, teachers, parents, students (yes, even them) and the state. But, has it been tried?

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41. Eagle - November 24, 2008

ejh,

I should add that the dead weight of a failing principal is far worse than a failing teacher. A principal who can’t manage leads to a school where staff morale is poor, children are not allowed to pursue the education that they should receive and the state is cheated.

I’d be quite happy to start with a situation where principals & vice principals are offered their jobs on the basis that they renounce their claim to a job for life. Such a move would at least lead to a situation where the people applying are keen to show that they can manage a school and not simply on the perks that come with the role.

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42. skidmarx - November 24, 2008

Perhaps teachers that aren’t worried about performance related pay will be more relaxed, more confident and more focused on teaching?

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43. Eagle - November 24, 2008

Perhaps teachers that aren’t worried about performance related pay will be more relaxed, more confident and more focused on teaching?

Or perhaps some will slack off causing upset and stress and low morale among the rest.

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44. crocodile - November 24, 2008

I don’t think we’ll ever agree, Eagle, if you think that the kind of managerial techniques and incentives that work in business can work in education.
My friend the primary school principal had a good laugh at the suggestion that there are ‘perks’ in that job. Many principalships are unfilled and there are very few serving principals who wouldn’t pack it in and return to normal teaching after a few years, if they could do so without sacrificing their pensions.He also respectfully suggests that it might be some time since you have seen the inside of a classroom, since the world you depict – of lazy teachers in cushy numbers, low accountability, principals with perks – is so redolent of the nineteen seventies. What irks him and the other teachers of my acquaintance is the lack of acceptance that total transformation in teachers’ jobs over the last couple of decades represents a huge and largely unrewarded rise in productivity.
ps try http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/sep/25/schoolsworldwide.schools

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45. Eagle - November 24, 2008

crocodile,

One problem with all these discussions is that there are significant differences between primary and secondary schools. Most of what I’ve written above was actually with secondary in my mind, although the class article from the New Statesman covers both.

And (referencing the article from the Guardian), I’m much in favor of a shorter school year for primary children. I think time in school is overrated anyway and kids should be free to learn outside and on their own when the weather’s good.

Many principalships are unfilled and there are very few serving principals who wouldn’t pack it in and return to normal teaching after a few years, if they could do so without sacrificing their pensions.

I think too few who work in education realize how valuable a perk that pension is. What many wouldn’t give to have a full defined benefit pension these days.

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