TDs return to work today, let’s get out and lobby!

Leinster House welcomes back its 158 TDs today after a 68-day summer recess. Whilst the summer has seen the usual political spats, leadership challenges and no end of nonsense, it’s down to business today with just three weeks until Budget day.

For the INTO, this is the final stages of our national lobby, but no less important. It’s an opportunity to ensure our political priorities for Budget 2019 remain front and centre. Primary education needs a budget boost.

A quick reminder of our key priorities:

Reduce Class Size

  • Education at a Glance (OECD 2017) shows that Ireland has primary school class sizes 5 above the EU average. There was a welcome reduction in Budget 2018, this needs to be maintained to arrive at EU average class sizes of 20.
  • Smaller classes support inclusion of children, allow more individual attention and meets the ambition by Government to establish the best education system in Europe.
  • Costing: Based on INTO’s calculations, we anticipate it would cost €16.5 million to reduce class sizes by one student.

Leadership Supports

  • Budget 2018 failed to build on the start to restoration of middle management posts from Budget 2017. Over 5,000 were lost during the recession.
  • Budget 2019 must restore these posts fully and provide for a minimum of one release day per week to enable teaching principals to focus on the vast functions of school leadership they are responsible for.
  • The Chief Inspector’s report has recognised the impact arising from the loss of the 5,000 support posts which are essential for schools where leadership and teaching are shared functions within the same individual.
  • Costing: Based on INTO’s calculations, we anticipate it would cost €15 million for full post restoration and €10 million to provide the minimum of one release day per week for teaching principals.

Equal Pay & Pay Parity

  • Equal pay for equal work is a basic right.
  • New entrants to the teaching profession from January 1 2011 were subject to a 27 year scale compared to a 24 year scale for older teachers. These pay scales are the longest in the public service.
  • The INTO voted against the current public sector pay agreement because it failed to deal with pay inequality which affects teachers disproportionally.
  • Over a career in teaching a 2012 entrant remains €100,000 (4%) behind a 2010 entrant.
  • A process is currently underway, to address salary scale issues for post-January 2011 entrants, between public service unions and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This engagement under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) involves multiple grades across a wide range of the public-sector unions. It follows the publication in March of a government report examining the remaining salary scale issues for post January-2011 entrants to the public service.
  • Parallel to the post-2011 salary scale engagement there is a separate PSSA process examining Recruitment and Retention issues in the public service. This is being conducted by the Public Service Pay Commission with an initial focus on certain health grades. A report from the Commission is due at the end of June.
  • Government have indicated that they will only deal with all the issues that emerge from both the new entrant salary scale and the recruitment and retention processes when they are completed. INTO President Joe Killeen called on the government to make clear that funding will be committed to commence the long overdue resolution to pay inequality.
  • Costing: Government states that it would cost approximately €200 million to resolve this pay inequality issue right across the public sector.

Fund Our Schools

  • School grants were cut by 15% in the recession. An immediate funding (capitation) increase is now needed for schools’ basic needs. An annual Minor Works Grant must be guaranteed.
  • A survey undertaken by the Catholic Primary School Management Association found that parents pay over €40 million to support basic school funding each year.
  • The cut of €30 per pupil (from €200 to €170) since 2010 has turned schools into fundraisers.
  • An annual Minor Works Grant (€5,500 basic + €18.50 per pupil) is essential for school repairs, upkeep and furnishing.
  • Costing: Based on INTO’s calculations we anticipate it would cost €12 million to increase capitation by €20 per pupil.

Plan Teacher Supply

  • Schools cannot get cover for teacher absence. Restoration of teacher supply panels is the only way to guarantee qualified teachers for all our children.
  • Children are entitled to have a qualified teacher each school day.
  • Minimal cost to supply panels as substitute teachers already employed where available.