'Boneheaded, failed policy': Teaching union hits out recruitment and pay of teachers at annual congress in Cork

The lack of investment in the Irish education system at all levels and in all sectors must be reversed,” he said.
'Boneheaded, failed policy': Teaching union hits out recruitment and pay of teachers at annual congress in Cork

Liz Farrell, president and Michael Gillespie, general secretary applaud Simon Harris TD Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation at the TUI conference at the Clayton Silversprings hotel, Cork. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie has hit out at the Government’s record in recruiting and maintaining pay and conditions for Teachers, in a hard hitting speech delivered in Cork.

Mr Gillespie was addressing 500 delegates and guests at the TUI’s Annual Congress this week, on the occasions of the TUI’s fiftieth anniversary.

“The lack of investment in the Irish education system at all levels and in all sectors must be reversed,” said Mr Gillespie.

“The TUI has warned over several years that a recruitment and retention crisis was building within the system.

“The current recruitment and retention crisis is the direct result of the boneheaded, failed policy of successive governments of attempting to make the education system do more and more with less and less. Not paying the piper but wanting the tune, played better, longer, inclusively, and more melodiously, no doubt to enhance general wellbeing.” 

The hidden work of preparation reflection and assessment that is over and above class contact is not recognised, said Mr Gillespie. 

“This essential work, alongside all that is done to support and build relationships with students, takes time and resources which are not made available to teachers and other staff in our education system. The real work done, and real time spent outside class time, must be recognized for the good it does. We can have a world-class education system, but change is needed.” 

 Adding to this and causing severe work overload are the bureaucratic and administrative demands, he said. 

“This accumulating workload is unfair, excessive, and unsustainable. This work is rapidly colonising personal time, at night and at weekends. The workload issue must be dealt with in a meaningful manner if we are to retain our teachers and lecturers and maintain the quality, we have in the Irish education system.” 


The TUI pre-Congress survey aimed at teachers shows that only 31 per cent of teachers recruited post 2011 received full hours in their first year of teaching.

This means that seven of every ten of those teachers had to make do with part-time work, fragments of a job, low pay, and precarity, said Mr Gillespie.

“Only 13 per cent of teachers received a permanent contract upon initial appointment, meaning that 87 per cent had no creditworthiness, could not hope to get a mortgage. Thirty-three per cent of teachers took three years or more to secure full hours and therefore a full-time salary. They would on average have been 28 years of age by that time.” 

 “This looks and feels like professional hazing, initiation by humiliation,” said Mr Gillespie. “It is unacceptable in any circumstances, never mind when there is also a cost-of-living crisis and a recruitment crisis.

“The remedy is simple: give new teachers and teachers we want to bring home full-time jobs with full-time salaries, so that they have some chance of meeting their financial commitments. To compete in this global market for teachers we need to reimagine the whole recruitment process for our schools.


Former Education spokesperson for Sinn Féin, Cork South Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, said he shared many of Mr Gillespie’s concerns. 

“Unfortunately, there is a supply crisis of teachers. Many of them are leaving the profession, and indeed leaving for the Middle East, for Scotland, and for elsewhere. That needs to be addressed. Some of those relate to terms and conditions.

“We need to see much more full-time contracts created. We also need to see postal responsibility restored, giving Teachers the opportunity to progress in their career. We need to seriously examine the possibility of schools being able to offer a permanent contract at any stage in the year. Currently, they can only offer them between Summer and November. That needs to be addressed so we can attract newly qualified Teachers back from the Middle East and other countries.

“At the minute, we are haemorrhaging teachers, particularly in the urban centres, and particularly in subjects such as Maths, and Foreign Languages, and the Science subjects. It’s going to impact on many schools, it’s already particularly impacting on schools in Dublin and the large urban centres, so we need urgent action to resolve the crisis in Teacher supply,” added Mr Ó Laoghaire.

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