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Going back to school is something more parents should do

My son's school sent home a short survey a few weeks ago regarding the teaching of mathematics. They wanted feedback on how each of us feels our children are coping at maths.

There were only a handful of questions, each relating to how well our child managed with their maths homework, what kind of difficulties, if any, they experienced and whether we had any concerns about their progress.

The form required no names - it was simply a way of assessing how pupils were coping with their homework. It also allowed for suggestions as to how additional support might be offered to children with difficulties.

Luckily maths is our eldest child's favourite subject, and he manages to grasp numerical concepts with relative ease. However, I was heartened to see a school striving for excellence, looking for solutions and reaching out to parents to get a holistic picture of their pupils' performance.


This week another note came home, this time regarding Irish. Like maths, many children struggle learning Gaeilge, a situation that's compounded when parents can't assist with homework.

Some of us were poor at Irish at school, others have come from abroad and never learnt the language, and then there's a coterie of parents whose Irish is rusty from lack of use.

Recognising the difficulties many children are having, my son's school has announced free support classes in Irish for parents.

There's a meeting this week to establish demand and figure out what levels parents are at, and one staff member - who happens to be my son's 3rd class teacher - has kindly agreed to run the classes.

There's something hugely reassuring about these initiatives. If anyone believed that their child was a number in a system this sort of effort demonstrates quite the contrary. Here's a school taking genuine interest in the welfare of its pupils and striving to give them the best possible education.

I'm keen to sign up and see if I can benefit from a refresher course. Earlier this year I signed up to a free email service from Transparent Language (www.transparent.com/word-of-the-day/) which drops an Irish word into my inbox daily.

Some days it's a noun, others a verb, each with its meaning in English and used in a sentence. An example might be 'An Bhialann - restaurant', with a sample sentence, 'An molfá bialann mhaith? - Can you recommend a good restaurant?'

If you click the speaker icons you'll hear the words being read by a native Irish speaker. It's great to hear them pronounced correctly and used in context, and you'll be surprised at how much you remember.

Aside from giving me more confidence as Gaeilge my daily email momentarily takes my brain back to school. Children respond well to their parents learning, and learning together often allows our kids teach us something new, which is wonderfully empowering for them.

I hope plenty of parents show up at these support classes. If our kids' teachers are kind enough to give freely of their time then we owe it to them, and our children, to attend.

Going back to school may just be the most rewarding thing you could do.