Click here to download Michael Gillespie's address as General Secretary to over 500 delegates and guests at TUI's Annual Congress in Wexford.
A summary of some of the key points is set out below.
General Secretary’s Address to Annual Congress – key points
In a wide-ranging address to 500 delegates this afternoon, Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) General Secretary Michael Gillespie tackled a number of issues relating to education and industrial relations including pay discrimination, the legacy of COVID-19, Senior Cycle reform and the development of Technological Universities.
TUI's Annual Congress is taking place this week at Whites Hotel, Wexford.
We must remember those members who are still suffering from COVID-19 and its various after-effects. The pandemic, let us not forget, is still with us.
In our schools, colleges and centres, TUI members, by action and accomplishment and by keeping the needs of their students to the forefront, maintained and delivered a quality education service.
TUI made sure that our most vulnerable members were protected by demanding – successfully - that they not return to face-to-face teaching. Because of our work and representations, high risk teachers, teachers over 60 and pregnant teachers were better protected from COVID-19.
The appalling devastation visited on the people of Ukraine is both brutal and shocking. Millions have been forced from their homes and homeland. Their plight must be the concern of or nation and our profession. Ireland is playing its part by offering a safe sanctuary to the people of Ukraine. Irish educators, including TUI members stand ready to do all we can to provide an appropriate education service to all who need it who arrive on our shores.
I ask you now to stand for a minute in solidarity with the people of Ukraine - in the hope that peace will soon be established and that the Ukrainian people can rebuild their country and their lives.
As we welcome students from Ukraine, strategic planning is needed so that we have the capacity in September to deal with the numbers who almost certainly will be arriving over the next couple of months. We know that, already, thousands have arrived who will be looking to attend school in the last term. We also know that even larger numbers will be with us by September. An effective plan and contingency arrangements need to be available before schools close at the beginning of June. Sufficient, targeted investment must be made available to assist Ukrainian students when they arrive in our schools.
Senior Cycle Reform
Senior cycle reform will be addressed at this conference. The TUI welcomes many elements of the recent announcement by the Minister in this regard - the removal of ring fencing of LCA and LCVP, access to transition year for all students who wish to avail of it, with no artificial limits being applied in schools.
However, the changes being proposed require additional resources if they are to be successfully delivered and the Minister was very short on detail in this respect. TUI has long favoured second and additional components of assessment where they are appropriate, meaningful and assess something that cannot be assessed in a written exam.
TUI wants to keep the second and additional assessment components in the 27 (of the 41) subjects at senior cycle that already have them and build on this where appropriate. The new second components of assessment for the remaining 14 subjects must, like the 27 already in existence, be organised and externally assessed by the SEC for reliability validity and integrity.
Let us be clear as we in TUI have always been. We are opposed to the Minister’s suggestion that second components of assessment should be marked by the students’ own teachers at school level, with the role of the State Examinations Commission reduced to moderation. TUI is opposed to the dilution of objectivity and the compromised standards that this would involve.
Excessive workload, much of it bureaucratic in nature, is eroding the morale of teachers and is driving fine teachers from the profession. The changes that are proposed at Senior Cycle cannot be allowed in any form to increase this already severe workload of teachers, deputy principals, principals, and any post holders.
What is urgently needed is a very significant increase in the schedule of posts of responsibility. Without this, schools simply cannot meet the pastoral, administrative and curriculum needs in our schools, not to mention the critical emergent needs - to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, to provide appropriately and generously for our new Ukrainian students.
Schools cannot be expected - and should not be asked - to continue indefinitely to work on an emergency footing.
We carried out certain functions in relation to Calculated/Accredited Grades on a strictly “no precedent” basis.
This no precedent approach was agreed by government and by the department. However again this year we saw a chorus line calling for what were temporary arrangements to be made permanent. We correctly and resolutely opposed that opportunistic call.
It is therefore deeply disappointing that the Minister, in her recent announcement and without any consultation with the Unions has said that the orals and music practicals will stay placed over the Easter break.
The TUI is calling on the Minister to review and revise her proposal regarding the scheduling of the orals and practicals.
Colleagues, we now face inflation, and it is inflation that arises from supply issues, which is harder to deal with than demand-led inflation. The practical manifestations of this inflation - increases in the cost of energy, fuel and even food, which we have not seen for almost two decades, are of grave concern to our members and to wider society.
Inevitably, given inflationary pressures, significant pay increases are reasonably being sought by workers, including teachers, lecturers, and other educators. Recently, the Public Services Committee of ICTU requested a review of Building Momentum due to the dramatic level of inflation being experienced. Energy, fuel, and food costs have all increased very steeply over the last several months. For example, teachers who moved outside the M50 in search of affordable homes or affordable rents now find the cost of fuel prohibitive in making the necessary daily commute to work. It is costing them a lot to go to work. We await a meaningful response from Government on the issue.
Building Momentum – Pay Discrimination
Although we have achieved a great deal in restoring much of the difference, we still have large numbers of members who earn less than their colleagues for doing the same work. TUI, under sectoral bargaining, has costed and agreed to forgo the 1% pay increase for teachers due on the 1st of February 2022 so that the equivalent monetary value can be used finally to eliminate pay discrimination against new entrant teachers. This money will allow payment of
the Professional Master of Education allowance - currently valued at €1,314 - to those who have commenced teaching since February 2012.
I am delighted to report to you, delegates, that a long-held aim of TUI has now been achieved. We have reached agreement with the Government in the Sectoral bargaining negotiations for the teacher grade that the H. Dip. /PME allowance will be paid to all post February 2012 entrants, back dated to the 1st of February 2022.
This is a major victory for you delegates. Your unfailing, principled solidarity with new entrant colleagues under-pinned and energised the TUI’s campaign on this key issue.
We are still seeking a return to the pre 2011 system of commencing new fully qualified and registered post primary teachers on the Third Point of the scale in recognition of their (now longer) unpaid training periods.
The money to end this scandal, to right this wrong is available. It's our money and it's in the exchequer coffers. In effect, it is being donated by teachers themselves to solve this long-standing issue. It shouldn’t have to be, but it is.
You have shown integrity and a sense of justice where government has failed to do so. This crass opposition by DPER to resolution of the scourge of pay discrimination must stop now, not least because pay discrimination remains a central cause of the teacher recruitment and retention crisis in second level schools.
Unresolved issues – a running sore
In the Further and Adult education sector, it is simply unacceptable – an indictment of the management authorities and the Department - that many members of our Union still do not have agreed terms and conditions and an incremental salary scale. Tutors are a case in point. We have an agreement – referred to as the Chairman’s note – that tutors will be provided with a long- overdue career structure. Implementation of this agreement on fair terms has been serially frustrated by the departments. This is intolerable. The TUI has, at recent meetings, been assured that this matter will be addressed, and TUI will relentlessly pursue this abject failure of management to address this issue.
At third level, the project to establish 5 new Technological Universities is now close to completion after many years of work, effort, and contention. The TUI has a very ambitious vision for the creation of a vibrant TU sector, and we will continue to work with those who share our determination to develop and build on the strengths, rich traditions, and achievements of the technological sector of Higher Education. To achieve this ambition, there must be unstinting practical commitment by the government, DFHERIS and managements. The Technological University sector must be properly funded resourced and supported.
We note with growing concern that DKIT and IADT have not yet been included in this evolution of a TU sector. This is deeply disappointing to our members in the affected branches and to the membership nationally. We will pursue this matter with vigor until the two institutions are appropriately brought into and accommodated within the TU structure.
Additional resourcing far beyond what is currently available is essential if our policymakers generally want to ensure that every learner is provided with a level playing field and the clear opportunity to achieve to the maximum of potential. The latest OECD Education at a Glance report in 2021 shows that out of 36 countries for which figures are provided none spends a lower proportion of national wealth on education than Ireland. The pandemic has brought the effects of this sustained underinvestment into very sharp focus.
After the INTO, the TUI is the second largest Irish teacher union with over 20,000 teachers, lecturers, and other educators across second level, third level and further and adult education. This breadth of expertise and experience gives us a unique understanding of the needs and dynamics of the Irish public health education system, an understanding that we will share with Ministers Foley and Harris both of whom will address our Congress this year.