“RECRUITMENT of teachers is now a problem for all kinds of reasons,” said Donal McElligott the TUI (Teachers Union of Ireland) Area Representative Cork.
The TUI annual congress was held over three days this week in Cork, at which members voiced fears about the recruitment of teachers, said Mr McElligott. “The profession is not as attractive as it used to be. Nobody is there to replace staff who are out sick or on any other kind of leave and they are not there to fill vacant jobs. Schools are beginning to drop subjects as a result,” he said.
The TUI area representative for Cork said they had visits from two ministers, Higher and Further Education Minister Simon Harris and Education Minister Norma Foley during the congress. “In Norma Foley’s speech, there really was no major announcement about any current issues. What was disappointing was that there was no further information on the senior cycle reform which she has deferred.
“We are delighted it has been deferred, but we are hoping Minister Foley will enter discussions with the stakeholders, including the TUI.
“Our red line area in that is that teachers will not be correcting their own students’ work.
“Minister Harris gave a very different kind of speech. The only new information was that there would be new contracts for tutors. We await more information on that.”
Mr McElligott welcomed Ms Foley saying that posts of responsibility should be looked at and possibly restored. “Posts of responsibilities are extra jobs in schools that would help to retain people in the profession and help to develop a career path. They are opportunities for career advancement and provide support for students. The workload at secondary level and in higher education and the bureaucracy that teachers have to follow means we now have endless paperwork.”
Mr McElligott said reducing the required two years of study teachers must do to graduate with a professional master of education would also help to retain numbers. “You do four years in college and then two years in a professional master of education (PME). There is no need for this to be two years. It is an extra cost and imposition.”
Cork City native John Driscoll, who stepped down from his role as president of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) this week, said salary and cost of living were “big” issues at its annual conference.
“I now have an honorary position on the executive. The general feeling is that it was a successful conference. Salary and the cost of living was a big issue. It is the same thing for everybody,” he said.
The INTO this week supported calls for an additional payment to compensate members for the higher cost of living in urban areas.
Mr Driscoll said schools in large areas are finding it hard to recruit. “We passed a motion looking for an allowance for people living in rent-pressured areas. It is a reality that schools in large areas are finding it hard to appoint teachers to permanent positions. I know it is a wider question in terms of the costs of housing and rent. What do you do if you are a worker and you are trying to bridge that gap? You have to look for it in your salary. The general cost-of-living crisis is affecting everybody no matter where they are teaching.”
“I would say Minister Foley’s speech went down fairly well,” he said.
“She did express her appreciation for the work teachers do on a daily basis.
“She does recognise the difficulties but we need to see results in action. We need to see the class size coming down. We need to get to the European average of 1:20 in a class.”
Mr Driscoll said he enjoyed his one-year term as president of the INTO. “It was the most fulfilling year of my professional career. I really enjoyed visiting schools and talking to pupils.”
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