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Ideally for this school principal, textbooks would be obsolete

If Simon Lewis were Irish Minister of Education, textbooks would be free.

Alas, Lewis is not, and Norma Foley of the Fianna Fáil party is the real minister. And school books are not free.

On the contrary, Lewis is a director of Carlow educating together, a primary school with 400 students in the town of Carlow.

In addition to being a writer and poet, he has a podcast called If I were Minister of Education …

In it, he touched on a range of education-related topics, from the ideal number of flyers per given term (one is his answer), racism, online pay slips and the abolition of private colleges in teacher training.

Textbook Reviews

Lewis has a lot of opinions about textbooks, but he also has data and experience from his 14 years as a school principal at Carlow.

During this period, he has seen a gradual move away from textbooks over the past two decades.

“However, I know that there is still an overdependence on them in many schools, especially the small ones, and we are outliers in the English speaking world to be able to support six major school book publishing companies to less than 4000 schools in the country. “

Busy and busy

There are many reasons why textbooks are still widely used, with tradition being a serious competitor, but also because they are a way to occupy and occupy children, especially in mixed classes.

“In our case, we tried to have as few books as possible,” says Lewis. “

This means that the students in his school have one book per major subject.

“And that’s about it at this point.”

Parents of children who do not attend Carlow Educate Together may well wonder about other books, especially workbooks, which make up their own list of school books.

As Lewis explains, all other material comes from a variety of sources, with the internet and subscription services being particularly helpful, he says.

Be resourceful

While this sounds good for parents and guardians who ultimately spend less on books, it places an additional burden on teachers, who must find the teaching materials to complement their lessons.

Lewis has a valid point about this, however, which goes to the heart of what teaching is.

“It adds to their workload, it should,” says Lewis, but knowing what teaching material works and how to find it is part of the teaching job.

“If my mom could do that, then it’s not really teaching. Part of our job is finding resources and figuring out how best to teach our kids.”

As Lewis says, textbooks are just a perspective on how to teach, and they are “rarely in your area with your cohort of children.”

“Most books are written for the benefit of their (authors) rather than the benefit of your lessons,” says Lewis.

However, the Internet and the sheer volume of material online poses an existential question for textbooks, or at least one would think so.

Localization course

“Textbooks were used for something when information was hard to come by. Now you can locate everything according to the interests of the children and you know your class better, ”says Lewis.

As far as Lewis is concerned, as long as you cover the curriculum, he doesn’t see the point of textbooks, but “especially non-core subjects”.

He might well be an outlier on that point, but as he pointed out, Ireland is an outlier, being able to support six book publishing companies.

So is Lewis’ school an outcast or a challenge for school book publishers?

Lewis laughs, adding that they know the way he does things at his school, but he acknowledges that they also have a job to do.

“In the last decade or so, they’ve started to incorporate more digital components into the programs. The future for them is to have subscription services.

Over time, the trend is towards a model of focusing the book on the teacher rather than the students, with the teacher then responsible for tailoring learning to suit that class.

How does Carlow Educate Together do it?

At Educate Together in Carlow, the school is responsible for purchasing all books and resources for the students.

“We charge a fee for everything at the start of the year; the cost of the book is around € 60- € 65, and that includes copies. “

According to Survey on the cost of education in Zurich 2021 found that in primary school, the highest costs are lunches followed by books at 176 €.

Lewis said they were able to cut costs by buying fewer books in favor of subscriptions to educational resources, which appears to be an ideal model.

“I’d like to think so,” Lewis said, laughing. “Otherwise, we’re in big trouble. “



Simon Lewis Director of Carlow Educate Together

If Simon Lewis was (really) the Minister of Education

As Lewis pointed out in a podcast devoted to providing free school books, his main point is that “we don’t need textbooks anymore and I am arguing that the government should provide free digital content for all primary schools” .

But, if it were installed tomorrow, “it would ensure that all textbooks are free for families as they should be, and as they are in most English speaking countries, and where primary education is. effectively free “.

One of The main policy proposals of Sinn Fein in the field of education is to make textbooks free, but Lewis thinks their proposal doesn’t really solve the problem.

“It just transfers the money problem to schools that cannot afford the books and just pass the cost on to parents in another way.

“I’m not affiliated with any party, but I think most opposition parties say the same thing until they’re in government. It’s an easy populist thing to say without doing anything meaningful, similar to all the uniform cost debate that we year. “

In all likelihood, uniforms and textbooks will be with us for some time to come, but there are change makers like Principal Lewis ready to try and do things differently.

As schools prepare to reopen all this week, Buzz will report on textbooks, the costs associated with them, how the publishing industry is changing and whether we even need textbooks.


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Harry can’t have his last name on his textbooks – because of the GDPR

Confused mother says her son’s classmates have started calling him “Harry2” due to teachers’ fears about data protection.

Newhey Community Primary School marked Harry Szlatoszlavek with a number so that it could be distinguished from another boy with the same first name.

Rochdale school does not use last names on children’s notebooks.

He claims to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when books are taken out of the classroom during parents’ evenings.

But Harry’s mother Tania says she checked with the Information Commissioner’s office and was told the policy was not necessary.

The “silly” rule led to the name sticking and Tania says her classmates now call her son “Harry 2”.

“He even got a Christmas card from another boy that said, ‘To Harry2 from Jack2,'” Tania said.

“They are taking away his identity.”



School bosses say rule is in place to protect children

The row first erupted last year when “Harry 2” was scrawled on the six-year-old’s notebooks because of his place in the register.

Mother-of-four Tania questioned the school’s decision and policy, but was told she was in place to protect the children.

She eventually received a letter from the local school authority, Rochdale Council, clarifying the situation.

The Information Governance Unit told Tania: “The school has made the decision not to put last names on children’s workbooks, as these books are visible to others, like parents’ evenings when the books are out in class and contain personal information about the children.

“The school made this decision to ensure compliance with the GDPR and reduce the risk of breaches in the future.

“You also stated that your child was called Harry 2 in the classroom verbally by a teacher. While this is not directly related to GDPR, we did discuss this with the principal.

“The principal has spoken to staff members about this as it is certainly not their policy or for that matter their practice not to use last names when talking to children at school. Children’s surnames are used when talking about and with children and at no time do they intend the children to lose their identity.

Tania believed the issue was resolved last year when a teacher placed a sticker on Harry’s book to cover the number “2”.



Tania says Harry loves school, but data privacy policy left him puzzled

But when the schoolboy started Year 2 this week, he came home with a workbook scribbled with the name “Harry 2”.

“I complained to school and to the board. Nothing has changed, ”says Tania.

“I phoned the Information Commissioner to ask if it was against GDPR for a child to use their own last name and they said it wasn’t and they can’t understand why.

” It does not mean anything.

“I like school but it’s this stupidity. You feel disgusted.

“I’m not saying that all children should use their last name, but I gave permission for my son to use his.”

Tania adds: “I understand that this comes from a good place. And I love school, it is really enriching and enjoyable. But it affects my son.

“He said ‘why am I’ Harry 2 ‘and not’ Harry 1 ‘?

“The school says it’s just because he’s lower on the register. So what if another kid called Harry comes along and he’s higher on the register than my son – will he become Harry 3? “

Tania also believes that Harry was referred to by his number by teachers in the classroom.

She said, “Harry thought that was his name because they were saying ‘Harry 2 come get your book’.



Harry Szlatoszlavek at home in Rochdale

“They said they didn’t call him that. So why do children write him Christmas cards addressed to “Harry 2”?

“When the GDPR came into effect, no one knew what to do. I know the school has the best of intentions, but no one has properly checked the rules.

The name Szlatoszlavek comes from Harry’s father, Louis.

“Louis inherited this name from his grandfather when he came here during the war when they had to leave Hungary,” explains Tania. (We are very proud of this name.

“Harry’s last name is part of him. I know it’s hard to say and it’s a bite to eat but that’s its name.

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s office said: “Although the data protection law grants special status to children’s data, it does not prevent a child’s full name from being written down. on a school textbook. ”

MEN has contacted Newhey Community Primary School for comment.

Rochdale council said the policy is in place to protect children, but the numbering system has been removed following comments from a parent.

“We are linking with the school for a smarter approach,” they added.


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