INTO calls for protections for small schools and their teachers

At the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation’s Annual Congress, there have been calls for the country’s smallest schools and their core staffing to be to be protected.

INTO is demanding that the Department of Education and Skills ensure that no school drops below a floor of two full-time teachers, a teaching principal and a second class teacher. It further demands that enrolment thresholds for the appointment of a third or fourth teacher be restored to previously lower levels.

A resolution passed at the conference also demands that the additional supervision carried out by teachers in these schools be recognised and remunerated. With smaller staffs, the heavy load of supervision is spread across fewer teachers. This results in teachers within these schools having no choice but to conduct a disproportionately large amount of supervision when compared with national norms.

Delegates also recognised the significant challenges to the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of teachers in small schools. The demands on small schools do not decrease in line with pupil numbers. Curriculum development, initiative overload and increased bureaucracy apply to small, medium and large schools nationally. This has a disproportionate and negative impact on smaller schools.

Proposing the motion, Eoin Fenton, shared the story of a one-teacher school where, in addition to fire drills, pupils had to practice what they would do if their teacher were to “take ill, faint or fall.” He said, “On the whiteboard in the classroom there was a list of numbers to ring in an emergency; the chairperson, the local garda station, parents etc.” He added that “Nobody should feel the need to have to run that drill.”