I hope this bulletin finds you safe and well during these very unusual and challenging times.
I am writing to you to give some context surrounding the decision taken by our school Coláiste Bhaile Chláir (CBC) on Monday this week.
It has been a privilege to serve as President of NAPD in a voluntary capacity over the last year. I know that you will all fully appreciate that my primary role on a daily basis is that of Principal of CBC. It is a privilege to serve as President of NAPD and to be active as a voice for school leaders at all the meetings and events which I attend. I have always endeavoured to do my best to ensure that the voice of school leaders is heard on all occasions and I will continue to do this while I continue to hold the position of President of our association.
However on a daily basis I also serve the community who attend and work in our school in Claregalway. Like you, I must deal with the challenges that present themselves to us as school leaders. At this time those are even greater and the challenges being faced by our teachers, parents and students have increased exponentially in recent weeks. Lack of certainty and clarity for students especially for those due to complete Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate assessments has been a growing concern for me as Principal and I am sure for you as well. Following the Minister’s announcement on Friday 10 April for school based, non-state certified exams in the Autumn for 3rd year students, this has added further to the issues for me as a school leader.
Student disengagement, lack of clarity, students returning to do school exams in September (if we can return fully with social distancing more than likely in place) all added to focussing my mind to bringing certainty to our students in the best interests of their health and wellbeing. Having consulted with parents, our in-school management team, Chair of BOM and teachers we choose to have school based exams in May rather than September/Autumn for our 3rd years as suggested by the Minister. As a school community we felt we were right and free to make such a decision in the best interests of our own teachers, students and parents.
I understand that this may have added to the pressures that some members have experienced in recent days as school leaders in your own schools, especially given the coverage our school decision received in the media and for that I am sorry to have placed that burden upon some of you.
At all times I have continued to highlight that the decision and options taken were on behalf of my school community and for my school community. I must work for and lead my school first while at the same time separately doing my best for school leaders throughout the country in my engagements and work on your behalf. I will continue to call for clarity and urgency on your behalf for decisions to be made in the best interests of our schools during this very short last term of school.
It is in everyone’s interests, our students and their parents, our teachers and our school leaders deserve clarity sooner rather than later.
We are living through unprecedented times and certainly in my lifetime I have never experienced such a situation as COVID 19 and its impact as it presents itself to us all each day. The new normal which we all find ourselves is very challenging and looks like it could possibly extend into the new academic year, who know what September will bring for us all.
But I have no doubt as I have said in previous bulletins and video presentations that in each of your schools you are doing an outstanding job and it is greatly appreciated throughout the country the role school leaders have played in each of your school communities by supporting your own teachers, students and parents