Recently I wrote a piece on this in the Irish Times
I forwarded this onto the Minister. Here is a rather disappointing response I got from his Private Secretary:
Would practising teachers please give me their opinion . Am I exaggerating? I dont think so (obviously)
Thank you for your email to the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Ruairi Quinn T.D. and the enclosed letter in relation to the issue of discipline in Irish schools.
It is regretted you have such a negative view of the behaviour of students in our schools. Whilst it is acknowledged that there are schools where lessons are disrupted by poor student behaviour, the evidence is that the problem is not as widespread as you believe.
The Inspectorate takes very seriously its responsibility to provide quality assurance within the education system and, consequently, inspectors spend a significant amount of time in classrooms. You suggest that inspectors do not see the reality of school life and that students put on performances while the inspector is present. In developing their inspection frameworks, the Inspectorate has addressed this risk. At various stages during an inspection, members of the school community, including teachers, students and parents have opportunities to interact with the evaluation team to discuss their work, including the challenges they face. The recent introduction of incidental inspections in post-primary schools also addresses this concern. Because these are unannounced inspections, an incidental inspection provides a further authentic quality assurance process.
Another very important measure to ensure that the independent and anonymous views of parents and students are heard is the use of questionnaires in whole-school evaluations. A number of the questions in these surveys relate directly to discipline in the school. An analysis of these surveys shows a very high level of awareness of schools’ behaviour policies. Parents and students are also extremely positive about the atmosphere in their school and the vast majority believe that discipline is good in their school. From September 2012, all teachers in post-primary schools where there is a whole-school evaluation will also be surveyed anonymously and this will provide further evidence in relation to discipline in schools.
Your comments are noted about poor teachers and your concern that current inspection processes do not identify them. Please note that in most inspections, the focus of evaluation is on the work of a subject department or school as a whole and not on the work of individual teachers. However, procedures are in place under Section 24 of the Education Act (1998) to facilitate schools in dealing with issues relating to professional competence and a stage in this process requires the school to seek and independent view of the teacher’s work from the Inspectorate. Schools have availed of this process and the Inspectorate has undertaken the associated inspections of teachers’ work.
I hope this information is of assistance to you.