In advance of next week’s Budget, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said that there must be ongoing flexibility in terms of the funding available for the education system, as every resource required to ensure the health and safety of educators and students must be made available in the months ahead.
The Union represents over 19,000 members in second level schools, colleges of further and adult education and Institutes of Technology/Technological Universities.
The Union has also highlighted a range of critical areas that also need targeted investment as a result of historic, chronic underfunding.
Speaking today, TUI President Martin Marjoram said:
Covid-19 health and safety
‘As we have said at all times, we will not allow the health and safety of our members to be compromised and whatever additional resources are required to provide additional supports and safeguards as a consequence of Covid-19 must be provided on an ongoing basis.
The effects of the chronic underfunding of education in Ireland are being put in sharp focus by the burden of the additional demands foisted on the system by the pandemic. As a result of a lack of adequate investment, increased bureaucratic duties and vastly stripped-back middle management structures, conditions for teachers and students are more difficult than those in other countries where education has been more appropriately funded.’
Pay discrimination damaging for educators and students
‘There has been a recruitment and retention crisis in schools for a number of years, with 98% of principals polled as recently as August indicating that they have experienced difficulties employing substitute teachers over the past year, with 81% of these believing that pay discrimination is a significant factor in this. This will undoubtedly pose problems in the coming months when the need for replacements due to absences arise.
This teacher supply crisis results in students missing out on subject choices or teaching ‘out of field’.
The TUI already has a strong mandate for industrial action on pay discrimination, with 19,000 members taking strike action in February of this year on the issue. Unequal pay has had hugely negative effects the in the Post Primary, Further/Adult and Higher Education sectors. The scourge of pay discrimination must be ended.’
Second level - Historic, chronic underfunding
‘Of course, our education system has been chronically underfunded for a significant period of time now, a fact verified by the OECD data last month which shows that only three countries spend a lower proportion of national wealth on education than Ireland’s. At second level, the situation is even worse again with Ireland’s spend the lowest of the 36 countries for which figures are provided, trailing unacceptably far behind the OECD and European averages. Clearly, this has made the sustainable re-opening of schools an even greater challenge for school staff.’
Third level – Ongoing political failure to address funding crisis
‘At third level, it is important to note that the ratio of students to teaching staff of 20:1 remains significantly higher than the OECD average of 15:1 and European average of 14:1. This is a clear indictment of the ongoing and completely unacceptable political failure – or refusal – to address the sector’s funding crisis.’
Further and Adult Education – Terms of employment
‘There also remains much work to be done in securing appropriate contracts and terms and conditions for those working in the further and adult education sectors, areas of education that will assume an even more critical importance when we begin the process of economic recovery.’