Irish Journal of Education, Vol. 19, 1985

ACCESS TO SCHOOL MEALS: THE CONSTRAINTS OF PERMISSIVE LEGISLATION

Claire Carney

School-meals schemes in Ireland were examined to ascertain how and why the schemes came into being, how they were administered in the past and are being administered at present, and what needs they were set up to meet and are meeting today. Basing the schemes on permissive rather than on mandatory legislation clearly has proved a major impediment to their development, since successive government ministers have denied being accountable for their organization or for the quality of the food provided. Thus, the urban-based scheme established in 1914 has remained virtually unaltered and provision for meals in rural areas, introduced in 1930, is severely restricted to specific areas of the Gaeltacht. Entitlement and funding procedures remain separate from those applicable to social assistance services in general. There is a dearth of information as to entitlement procedures or the assessment of means. The absence of a system for the redress of grievances is also noted.
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THE REACTIONS OF TEACHERS TO SURPRISING STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES

Peter Archer

Research findings indicate that teachers rarely alter their opinions of students in the light of information they receive from standardized tests. To explore why this might be the case and to get an overview of teachers’ responses to standardized-test results, 30 primary-school teachers (in second and fifth standards) were interviewed about their reactions to the scores obtained by their students on a previously administered ability test. It was found that teachers often did not regard as surprising test scores that appeared, on the basis of statistical criteria, to differ from the teachers’ previously given assessments of students. Thus, in a large proportion of the cases where there was room for test information to have an effect on teachers’ assessments, the teachers did not revise their assessments since they had not perceived a discrepancy between the test results and their own assessments. In the cases in which teachers did perceive discrepancies, they were able to find legitimate reasons for them; in the majority of cases, the test score was simply regarded as being ‘wrong’.
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THEMATIC CONTENT PREFERENCES OF FIVE-YEAR OLD CHILDREN

M. Elizabeth Gray

The thematic content preferences of a representative sample of children (N=899) attending primary school in Northern Ireland, in the age range four to six years, were assessed by a specially devised picture test. Major differences were found between the preferred themes of girls and of boys. Girls were more interested in home-environment themes, while boys stated an interest in themes of violence and adventure.
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HAVING AN EQUAL SAY: A STUDY OF CLASSROOM DISCOURSE

Kevin McDermott

Two basic questions are addressed in the study reported in this paper: What kind of discourse practices are employed by a teacher and students in the academic discourse of history lessons, and what, if any, are the constraints that restrict the participation of students in this discourse? The classroom discourse of one teacher and his students in a Dublin post-primary school was recorded. Analysis is based on the transcripts of two lessons given to a junior-cycle class and two lessons given to a senior-cycle class. The theoretical base to the analysis of discourse is provided by the work of Habermas. The most significant discourse practices employed by the classroom participants are identified. The form of intersubjectivity in the lessons of a junior and senior class are compared and contrasted. The authoritative and judicial practices of fixing the issues to be addressed by the discourse and adjudication on what was said are the practices which most clearly distinguished the classroom talk of the teacher from that of pupils. Both teacher and pupil discourse practices changed with the transfer from junior to senior lessons. Compared to the senior lessons, classroom discourse in the junior lesson was dominated by the discourse practices of the teacher while the pupils’ contribution was relatively insignificant. The findings suggests that teachers must seek to guarantee the autonomy and responsibility of their students and facilitate the process of self-formation implicit in certain discourse practices.
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A STUDY OF THE USE OF THE McCARTHY SCALES OF CHILDREN’S ABILITIES WITH IRISH CHILDREN

Murray A. Porteous and Antoinette Lyons

The McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale were administered to a sample of 200 children, chosen to be representative of Irish children aged between five and six years. When compared with the findings of previous studies, the Irish mean ability scores were similar to American mean scores but below those of English and Scottish samples. Sex and social class differences in McCarthy scale scores were somewhat greater in Ireland than in other countries. Some doubt surrounds the suitability of the McCarthy Motor and Quantitative scales for children on this side of the Atlantic, though in general the test seems broadly suitable for use here.
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