In its initial reaction to Budget 2023, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said that the measures go nowhere near remedying the damage that underinvestment and unrestored cutbacks have wreaked on the education system.
The Union has expressed disappointment at the absence of measures to tackle teacher recruitment and retention problems. The third level funding crisis will continue, while the Union has said that additional funding for schools and colleges to meet spiralling energy costs beyond what was announced today must be made available if required.
Speaking today, TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said:
‘We await full detail on the Budget 2023 education measures, but it is already clear that they will not remedy the damage that historic underinvestment and unrestored cutbacks have wreaked on the education system.
As a country, we were already starting from a low base, with the latest OECD figures showing that of the countries for which figures are provided, none spend a lower proportion of national wealth on education than Ireland’s.’
Budget silent on teacher recruitment and retention problems
‘Today’s Budget announcements have been regrettably silent on measures that would tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis afflicting second level schools and in the further education sector, a crisis worsened by the cost-of-living crisis. Key to this is ensuring that teachers receive secure jobs on full hours.
A survey of our membership earlier this year showed that 65% of those appointed after 2011 did not get a contract of full hours upon initial appointment, which means that for several years, they only earn a fraction of a full salary. With the current cost-of-living crisis, this is unsustainable.
Regardless, we will insist that the Department of Education and DFHERIS works with us to tackle this crisis as a matter of urgency.’
Third level funding crisis
‘At third level, the ongoing refusal to appropriately address the sector’s funding crisis continues, and students will continue to suffer as a result. At a time when there is a strong focus on the key role of education in our economic and social development, the funding crisis risks inflicting severe operational and reputational damage on our education system. The ratio of students to teaching staff in the sector has increased from 20:1 to 23:1 according to the latest OECD figures, which is vastly higher than the OECD and European averages of 15:1.’
‘The increased number of apprenticeship places must be matched with increased funding and resources.’
Support for spiralling energy costs must be extended if required
‘We note the provision to provide assistance to schools and colleges for spiralling energy bills, but it must be borne in mind that not every education centre is the same with regard to ventilation, insulation etc. Where it is required, additional funding over and above what the Budget caters for must immediately be made available to ensure that all students have access to educational environments that are conducive to learning.’
No reduction of second level PTR
‘It is disappointing in the extreme that there is no mention of a reduction in PTR at second level at a time when the challenges of COVID-19 have made abundantly clear how resource-starved and overcrowded our schools are. Instead of improving ratios, any increase in teacher numbers at second level will only cater for increased student numbers.’
Cost of schoolbooks
‘Clearly, the financial strain that families experience does not cease when a student completes primary school. While we welcome the move to provide free books at primary level, the measure should clearly be extended to second level.’
Posts of responsibility restoration
‘There was no mention of posts of responsibility restoration in today’s announcement. Savage cuts to middle-management structures and posts of responsibility – initially imposed in in 2009 and not fully restored since - continue to have a very negative effect on the capacity of schools to meet the needs of students. Schools are struggling, with the odds stacked against them by government, to provide and prioritise the range of supports students deserve and should have. Middle management structures and the associated posts must be fully restored as a matter of urgency so that schools are better placed to cater for the diverse needs of all students.’