Minister for Education Norma Foley will address primary school teachers in Killarney this morning in what will be her first in-person address to a teacher trade union conference.
The teachers’ Easter conferences have been held online for the past two years, but this year they return to their traditional in-person format.
Ms Foley will speak to INTO members before travelling to Cork to address delegates at the ASTI’s annual convention later this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris will tell Teachers Union of Ireland delegates in Wexford about plans to bring proposals on the future funding for higher education to the Cabinet in the coming days.
Mr Harris will tell TUI delegates – many of whom work in the further and higher education sectors – that he will expect changes in return for additional investment, including a reduction in the student/lecturer ratio and new pathways between further and higher education.
Mr Harris will also speak about a new hub to be operational from next week which will coordinate assistance for students from Ukraine who wish to continue their third level studies in Ireland.
In Killarney, primary school teachers will debate an emergency motion calling for additional resources for schools to enable them to support newly arrived refugee school children from Ukraine.
The resolution calls for additional English language teachers, a fast-tracked approval process for Ukrainian teachers seeking to register as teachers in Ireland, access to translation services for schools and additional psychological and counselling support for children and their families.
The motion also calls for the provision of free school transport for children from Ukraine, as well as additional funding for textbooks and other materials.
But inflation and the rising cost of living is set to dominate proceedings at the INTO and the ASTI conferences today, with both unions opening public proceedings with motions calling for pay measures to address the problem.
The INTO will focus on this issue this morning, while ASTI delegates will debate pay and the cost of living this afternoon. The TUI is due to discuss pay and inflation tomorrow.
TUI warns of recruitment crisis in schools
The TUI is warning that pay inequalities among teachers are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis in schools.
The union will make renewed calls for the issue to be addressed at its annual congress.
The TUI says that pay discrimination experienced by teachers appointed from 2011 onwards is inflicting severe damage on morale.
“It has led to a teacher recruitment and retention crisis at second level that is making it increasingly difficult for schools to fill teaching vacancies,” according to the TUI.
“An already acute problem has been exacerbated by significant increases in the cost of living and in some areas by the severe scarcity of affordable housing.”
Delegates will also hear concerns about Leaving Cert reform.
The TUI says that while it welcomes elements of the current plan, State certification and external assessment must be retained.
Other issues to be discussed over the course of the three-day conference include the legacy of Covid-19, third-level funding and concerns over increasing workloads.
The event will be addressed by Minister Harris today and by Minister Foley tomorrow.
Teaching ‘no longer seen as attractive’
ASTI President Eamon Dennehy will tell his union’s conference that teaching is no longer seen as attractive, resulting in a recruitment crisis in the profession.
500 teachers will attend the conference, which begins this afternoon in Cork.
They will debate motions on addressing cost of living increases, pension entitlements and Leaving Cert reform.
But pay will be the central theme, with the first motion to be debated calling for a ballot on industrial action unless teachers are granted a pay increase to offset cost of living increases.
The motion also calls for a common pay scale for all teachers.
General Secretary of the ASTI Kieran Christie told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland a “substantial” increase would be requested.
“We are seeking an increase in relation to pay to compensate for that [cost of living] and the truth of the matter is that the planned increases on top of the ineffectual increases we’ve had over the last couple of years won’t cut it and we need a substantial pay rise to compensate for that, and to put teaching back on an even keel,” he said.
He said the amount being sought will be based on the outcome of negotiations under the Public Service Agreement with the Government.
However, he said that it would be in the region of 6% to 8%, in line with cost of living increases.
Minister Foley will address the conference at 5pm.
She will hear calls from Mr Dennehy to address the pay gap between younger and older teachers, with younger teachers no longer receiving an allowance for their Professional Masters of Education qualification.
“Entry into second-level teaching is a demoralising experience for young teachers, due to unequal pay and precarious contracts,” Mr Dennehy is due to tell Minister Foley.
“Teaching is no longer seen as attractive and Ireland is currently experiencing a teacher recruitment crisis.”
On Leaving Cert reform, Mr Dennehy will reiterate his union’s opposition to teachers assessing their own students in State-certified exams.
He will tell the conference: “During the pandemic, ASTI members participated in calculated grades and accredited grades on the basis that these were one-off arrangements, so that students could get on with their lives. Any attempt to go back on these commitments would not be acceptable to the ASTI.”
Today marks the beginning of the 100th ASTI annual convention. It will be the union’s first in-person conference since 2019.
Additional reporting: Brian O’Donovan, Paschal Sheehy