Children and young people are starting back to school shortly.


Many shall face Prejudice based on where they live, what they wear, their family set-up, and what their parents do.




12 August 2017




Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students | A Member of The Tutors' Association







From the beginning of every new School Year, from Montessori pre-school age, all the way through to Secondary School, many children and young people face Prejudice and Degradation.    


The collapse in many families’ standards of living exacerbates the problem.  Children and young people are being subjected to personal insults because of their families' financial circumstances.  Many have suffered as a result of the decision to save the pillar banks with tax-payers' money when the Great Crash happened.  There is a lack of follow through on priorities promised but not fulfilled, particularly in the sectors of education and medical cover, made by a series of Governments, of all hues.  Every family is affected by this retrenchment.


The wrong trainers, the wrong backpack, the wrong pencil case, the wrong drink bottle and lunch box.  It starts at the beginning of the day, and just goes on.


Some manifestations can be so subtle, it is very difficult to put one's finger on it and say "Yes, that's clearly Prejudice!"  What youngster is going to call out “Teacher, teacher, she said my backpack is cat!”  None.


BULLIES know this, and they rely on it not to be caught.


In times of uncertainty, when those who thought 'they had', and now find 'they do not have', some lash out.  People who have just about made it through all their lives, are finding the cuts savage.  


When times are hard, we should be redoubling our efforts to keep young people in education.  We have to make the option of education attractive, and we have to fund it properly.  




We need a national debate on what behaviour is acceptable in society and that includes schools.  This definitely includes the behaviour of teachers, principals, and anyone employed by or in connection with a school, as well as that of the students.


I know of a personable young man who kicked a locker in school and was seen to do it by the Sports' Master. He shouldn't have kicked it. The young man was facing into his Leaving Certificate Year, and the Sports' Master insisted on having him 'excluded' with the intention of having him expelled!  I believe the attitude taken by the Sports' Master was an abuse of his position.  Calming down efforts were carried out over a prolonged period, and the Sports' Master did not get his expulsion.  However, nothing can give that young man back the months of school he missed at a crucial stage in his education.  This is not an isolated incident.  

Very few of us get a second chance at the Leaving Certificate, and if one has to fit a two-year syllabus into one year, that is a great disadvantage.



Let us not fall into a habit of presumptions.  The bully is not necessarily the young man from the flats: is it the teacher who picks on him daily?



Please see my Post, My Path to Education Practice (called Education Practice on the Menu), and the Section near the end called Negative School Experiences. I believe that in some schools, with particular teachers, the relationship between teacher and second levels students is still in the 19th Century.  Many teachers are progressive and committed, but one bully can ruin the atmosphere of a whole school. 


I think we have to start by being honest with ourselves.  We need to look at all aspects of school life, at everyone who works there, be it students from the youngest age to the end of second level, and all the teachers, classroom assistants, coaches, principals, and anyone employed by or in connection with a school.


In some schools, a student who is outstanding on the sports field, is fairly untouchable; able to get away with behaviour lesser gifted schoolmates would never dream of trying!



The contents of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) might surprize some people as to the extent of the Rights of the Child, who is anyone under the age of 18 years.  Might this not be another good place to start a conversation on what kinds of society we want, for the welfare of all?

Please see Email:, and

Web:, for further information.



If you put either

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)


The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in Schools

in a search engine, the document can be dowloaded as a PDF.doc, or read on the screen.  It is very interesting.




In my Post, “Teachers ~ Caring for Yourselves, Your Students, and Relieving Stress”, there is a Section near the end called MANAGING CLASSROOM BEHAVIOUR Give Children an Opportunity to Discuss and Plan Behaviour in their Class ~ and to Choose Priorities.


This is based on announcing at the very start of the School Year that everyone in the class shall be asked what kind of behaviour everyone would like to experience in the classroom, playground, and anywhere else connected with their School and, equally, what behaviour would be unacceptable.  The answers are written up, and added to over a couple of weeks.  The “Class Rules” are be distilled from these ideas.  Everyone gives at least one good and one bad example of behaviour for the list.


Very young children are perfectly well able to understand what is fair and unfair; and they know how to say what they do and do not like.


Starting young, and learning, through debate, what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable to our classmates is a very good foundation for life in general, as well as for a school career.


NOT for a moment am I suggesting that this is the answer to insidious snobbery and degrading treatment of some students by others.


Perhaps, it is a place to give a forum to students to express their ideas of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.  PLEASE, let us pool our ideas and experiences.


WOULD IT NOT be marvellous to start a new School Year with a plan to spike bullying, prejudice, degrading treatment, and the undermining of students’ self-confidence?


Given that we all have a duty to those who are more vulnerable, please let us give consideration to what worked in the past, perhaps when we were at school, or things that worked in a child’s class, or in any circles where groups of young people gather.


Perhaps, many, many, years ago, some of us were bullies.  Their insight and ideas would be useful.




I have been listening to pleas from parents on the National Broadcaster, RTÉ1, over recent weeks, complaining of the ever-increasing cost of preparing children and young people for school.  I have also read the Barnardos Ireland Annual School Costs Survey 2017.  It all makes for depressing listening and reading.


The levels of stress in the voices of the parents is palpable.


With thanks to Barnardos Ireland for their great work, I quote liberally from their “School Costs 2017 – Infographic”.  All the statistics quoted below are from the Survey Report.  1,834 parents responded to their Survey on the cost of sending their offspring to school.  The results are fascinating, and can be found in full at



Cost of Starting the School Year in Ireland

*  The average cost of getting a 1st year secondary student ready for school is €800. 

*  7 per cent of parents are forced to go into debt to cover the cost of school, with some having no choice but to resort to high interest credit card and money lender loans.  

*  6 per cent of primary school parents are asked to pay voluntary contributions to help fund schools - and many are pressured and chased for this money.

*  45 per cent of parents had to forgo other bills or cut back on daily expenses.


While, the Survey results indicate a 10 per cent drop in requests for voluntary contributions at both primary and secondary level compared to 2016, significantly, more parents are being asked to pay the mandatory classroom resources fees.  What a former English teacher of mine would have called “a complete cod!”.



The Survey Found

*  Parents of primary school pupils pay on average between €50 and €100 on books.

*  One-fifth (20%) of parents of secondary school pupils pay in excess of €300.

*  Generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary level.  

*  Parents spend on average €95 on school specific uniforms at primary level,

*  And between €150 and €200 at secondary level.




Quite a number of schools insist that each pupil has a new uniform, each year, irrespective of last year’s uniform still fitting, or an older sibling’s uniform fitting.  This is nonsense.  I believe the Parents’ Councils in these schools should meet and declare this particular Rule “unfair and discriminatory”.  Once that has happened, if the School Management does not delete the Rule, it leaves itself open to litigation.  Taking a court case is not necessary, however it would be a constant possibility, acting as a spur under the saddle of the School Management. 




Many families are faced with hugely increased rent bills for their homes.  Others are searching for an affordable home, with their children; such places are not available.  Social housing barely exists in the larger cities.

Many families have gone from paying a mortgage to ending up in temporary accommodation in hotels, fast, having lost their houses.  A whole family lives in one room, plus the bathroom.  They are not allowed in the public areas of the hotels, including the dining-room, even though the Government is paying bed and breakfast rates for these families.  They are obliged to enter and leave via the service entrance. 

They live on take-away food.  They have no cooking facilities available to them, and cooking is not allowed in bedrooms.  Take-away food is an unsatisfactory diet, and very expensive.




I have heard anonymous young people describe their lives on the radio in the afternoon, when their parents are in work.  It is heart-aching.  They talk about living in one room with all the family; the noise of the television; no place to do homework; the noise of the bathroom fan on all night to dry clothes.  These young people are not complaining about their parents.  Indeed, they make a point of saying how hard they are trying to make life as normal as possible for the family.  They know the stress their parents are under, and do not wish to add to it.


In an attempt to keep continuity in their offsprings’ lives, most parents try to keep them at their old schools, frequently involving very long journeys.  We can be fairly certain these children and young people WOULD NOT tell their parents about bullying and degrading treatment in school.


Although the data given is Irish-based, I believe similar experiences are being felt across Europe, Africa, Asia, the USA, and other places I have not listed.  Many peoples' lives are in turmoil.  In the old days, it used to be called “Tuppence-h’penny lookin’ down on tuppence”.  It doesn’t matter what the currency is, it is happening everywhere.



SCHOOL UNIFORMS, Autism / ADHD / Extremely Sensitive Skin

None of the conversation around generic or specific school uniforms I have heard deals with the serious and widespread problem of children and young people on the Autistic Spectrum, with ADHD, or with extremely sensitive skin, each having the greatest difficulty tolerating the itchy, scratchy, uniforms of any kind, with their labels and seams, and very uncomfortable fabrics.  I have looked into this matter, and have found a business started fairly recently by a woman whose daughter has Autism, and not being able to find school uniforms her daughter could tolerate, she has developed her own range.  This can be found at  I know Meta is growing her range all the time, and she has some ingenious ideas.  Trying to concentrate in school with a learning disability, while wearing a uniform which is continual torture, and is giving these children and young people little chance of benefiting from school.  

For clarity’s sake, I have no financial or other interest in this Company.  

While basic, generic, school uniforms can be bought inexpensively in supermarkets and department stores, how do families with special needs children get help to buy the special uniforms that their children can tolerate?


All ideas and suggestions would be welcome!


Thank You.

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien




If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.




My website,, “Education Matters” is where my Posts originate, and are continually revised and updated.  This is where my view, ideas, and experiences on all matters Education can be found.


I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.



If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly. If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite! If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear, unambiguous, content and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!





The full Survey Report is available at


“There remains a constant expectation that parents will prop up the educational system by having to buy the essentials required for their children to complete the curriculum ie, books, classroom resources, stationery and voluntary contributions.


“June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said, “This year over 1,800 parents took the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey.  Parents are yet again stressed and over-burdened by back to school costs.  It affects so many families, not just those on low incomes.  The impact of these mounting costs mean many parents are forgoing other bills, cutting back on daily expenses or ending up in debt in order to ensure their children have all they need for the new school year.”


“Many parents were aware of the Minister’s circular (issued in April 2017) to schools to take a more proactive approach in reducing the burden of costs on parents” … “again some schools were more proactive than others and subsequently this variation across schools is a major source of frustration for parents.  The inaction by schools was often seen as a result of lack of funding by the Government to adequately resource the running of the school and thereby passing on some of the savings to the parents.


“Books should be provided free to students, and there should be no examination fees.  Schools expect too much support from parents through fundraising etc, many parents are already hard pressed.  The State should be providing all that is needed in order for a school to function successfully instead of making the school go to the parents.”


Ms. Tinsley, concluded, “Education unlocks potential but the State is denying many children the key because it is failing to see its fundamental role in ensuring the education system is adequately funded to ensure all children have what they need to learn the curriculum.  No other public service has to subsidise their funding to keep the show on the road, so why should the Department of Education expect schools to have to undertake extensive fundraising activities from parents and staff to fund necessities?  Budget 2018 must take the first step towards making education free for all children by providing free books for all pupils in primary school.”


Please read the Results when you get a chance.  They are very interesting in relation to education and deprivation in general, as is much of the work done by Barnardos Ireland.