8th April 2021
The INTO’s Annual Congress took place online this year on 6 and 7 April and was attended by almost 700 delegates. Over the course of the two days, INTO members debated and voted on motions submitted by INTO branches and districts throughout the country. The motions passed will form INTO policy and guide the work of the union in the coming year.
The motions at this year’s conference are:
Item 1: COVID-19
- that one effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic has been to highlight the inadequate resourcing of and support for primary schools;
- the difficulties that schools have faced in engaging with the HSE ‘track and trace’ team;
b. acknowledges the additional measures which were put in place to support schools in areas such as provision of one day per week for leadership and management for teaching principals establishment of a wide network of supply panels, substitution cover for all approved absences, and additional funding in areas such as cleaning, equipping and IT;
c. believes that each of these measures is a necessary support for the ongoing operation of primary schools, and
- the retention of each of these measures on an ongoing basis; and
- the expansion of supply panels so that this essential service is available to all schools.
Item 2: Class Size
- a. notes the pre-budget 2021 campaign on the theme ‘Keep our schools open’ run by INTO with wide involvement of members prior to Budget day on 13 October 2020;
- b. further notes that the focus of that campaign was on class size, alongside leadership supports and funding;
- c. welcomes both the widespread membership participation in the pre-budget campaign which involved contacting public representatives on the relevant issues and the subsequent reduction in class size announced in Budget 2021, to take effect from 1 September 2021;
- deplores the failure to pass on the class size reduction to all categories of DEIS Band 1 schools in the Budget announcement;
- commits INTO to strong campaigning on class size each year until Irish primary class sizes are reduced to or below the average across EU countries;
- demands that the CEC negotiate with the Department of Education to ensure that all schools have a minimum of two class teachers.
Item 3: Special Education
a. demands that in light of the pandemic and the unavoidable disruption of education, especially for children with additional educational needs, that at the very least no school would lose its current SET allocations for the next two years while recognising that some schools may in fact need additional supports in support of education of the most vulnerable.
b. recognises that the Irish education system is an inclusive system that provides a range of options for pupils across the continuum of support and that differing needs are best served by a diverse model of provision;
c. further recognises that special schools and special classes play an important role in our system;
d. commends the commitment and professionalism shown by Irish primary teachers while noting the lack of adequate funding, training and access to professional services;
e. deplores the lack of timely assessment and admission of children by HSE Primary Care, CAMHS, Assessment of Need, HSE Early Intervention Team and HSE School Age Team;
f. further demands that
- adequate funding and services be provided for children with additional needs in mainstream, special classes and special schools including a significant increase in NEPS services;
- the current system retain the continuum of support and diversity of provision;
- schools are provided with sufficient specialised services for children presenting with mental health issues to meet their ongoing needs;
g. instructs the CEC to
- actively liaise with the DE, HSE, NCSE, NEPS, CAMHS and other relevant bodies to decrease waiting lists for assessment and significantly improve access to appropriate therapies; and
- oppose outright the proposed school inclusion model NCSE consultation document.
- demand an immediate revision of the current model to allow for additional teacher to accommodate the large numbers of pupils seeking behavioural and emotional interventions as a result of COVID-19.
Item 4: Reproductive Health
a. acknowledges the progress which has been made on reproductive health for members;
b. condemns the fact that the Department of Education considers that miscarriage is not a pregnancy related leave issue, and
c. directs the CEC to negotiate with the Department of Education to:
- have Circular 0054/2019 amended to ensure that no certified pregnancy related absence be counted towards ordinary sick leave or affect pay entitlements; and ensure that any appointments for assisted reproduction appointments should be fully substitutable.
Item 5: Workload and Leadership
- that the role of the principal as set out in the Education Act and Circular 0016/1973bears little semblance to the day-to-day realities which principal teachers find themselves in on a day-to-day basis;
- that the workload and expectations placed on principal teachers has become excessive; and
- the CEC appoint independent auditors to conduct an audit of time worked by principal teachers during evenings, weekends and school closures;
- that the CEC negotiate with the Department of Education to seek the awarding of five EPV days to every principal teacher as recompense for work carried out during school holiday periods or additional payment for any and all work carried out by school leaders during school holiday periods;
- that the PDC and fora be central in the consultation in any review;
- that the CEC engage with the DE with a view to the issuance of a new circular detailing the duties and responsibilities of principal teachers; and
- the CEC place their proposition on the structure and detail of such a circular before Congress 2022 if agreement has not been reached with the DE at that stage.
c. further demands that:
- the DE provide proper administrative supports for school leaders, including secretarial support, release time of at least one day per week for teaching principals, support for building projects, the full restoration of posts of responsibility and the appointment of administrative deputy principals in all special schools and in all other schools on the same basis as in post-primary schools;
- all staff be counted for the purpose of calculating principals’ and deputy principals’ allowances; and
- a proper and dignified mechanism for stepping down from the role of principal be developed and implemented by the Department of Education.
Item 6: Occupational Injury Leave Scheme
- notes the INTO’s success in achieving an Assault Leave scheme for teachers in 2017;
- condemns the fact that teachers’ ordinary sick leave entitlement is affected by absence caused as a result of a work related injury;
- calls on the CEC to urgently engage with the Department of Education to secure a No Fault Occupational Injury Leave Scheme for teachers who have incurred a physical injury in the course of their approved duties, in line with that available to other public servants;
- demands that such an Occupational Injury Leave Scheme give sufficient time for recovery in line with medical advice, with no effect on ordinary sick leave;
- further demands that the financial security and well being of any teacher recovering from a work related injury be protected at all times through a No Fault Occupational Injury Leave Scheme; and
- further calls on the CEC to provide an update on progress made on foot of this resolution to members by the end of September 2021 and report fully on steps taken and progress made on this issue to Congress 2022.
Item 7: ICT Funding
a. deplores the continuing inadequate funding for ICT in Irish primary schools in this digital age;
b. acknowledges the work of teachers in providing continuity of learning for pupils remotely throughout the periods of enforced school closure due to Covid-19;
c. condemns the inequalities that exist regarding access to digital devices for teachers and children in primary schools;
d. instructs the CEC to use every available opportunity to persuade the DES to commit to an annual grant for ICT based on enrolment, which will be sufficient to maintain current functioning ICT infrastructure and equipment, replace obsolete systems, integrate and train staff in the use of new ICT hardware and software and allow schools to efficiently plan investment in ICT on a multi-annual basis;
e. directs the CEC to engage with the DE to:
- develop a scheme to enable disadvantaged pupils in DEIS and non DEIS schools to have access to ICT in their homes;
- provide schools with the necessary ICT resources and assistive technologies to facilitate the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs;
f. demands that the CEC negotiate the appointment of additional staff to larger schools and to clusters of smaller schools with responsibility for ICT system maintenance and development and the planning and facilitation of effective integration of ICT into all areas of curriculum delivery and learning.
Item 8: Communication from the Department of Education
a. acknowledges the vital role played by school leaders in our schools, in particular their role in managing communications at school level; and
b. highlights the need for all communications from the DE and Minister to be clear, concise and respectful to enable the efficient management of schools by school leaders;
c. demands that:
- all communications/ circulars/ letters from DE be issued prior to 3pm on Thursday of a working week, at least five working days prior to standardised school closures, and at least five working days prior to the date that any change flowing from such communications are implemented;
- schools receive all communications from DE via ESINET/ the designated school email in advance of announcements on websites, media outlets or social media; and
- in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, including the INTO, the DE develop a strategy for communication with schools which shows respect for all concerned, especially school leaders.
Item 9: DEIS
a. notes the continuing failures of the Department of Education to address the issues relating to DEIS as identified by Congress 2016, ’17, ’18 and ’19 and
b. calls on the CEC to convene a series of regional meetings of DEIS schools in order to develop a cohesive and comprehensive campaign, up to and including industrial action, leading to
- a maximum class size of 18:1 for senior classes and 15:1 for junior classes in our most disadvantaged schools;
- a class size of 20:1 for all other schools in the DEIS scheme;
- the restoration of posts of responsibility in DEIS schools to the levels outlined in Circular 0007/2003;
- the provision of the hot meals programme option to all DEIS schools;
- the roll out of school based therapy services, including but not limited to play, music and art therapy services;
- the funding for termly regional cluster meeting for DEIS principals, to be held offsite to allow for full engagement by all attendees;
- the honouring of Section 4.3 of the DEIS plan (2005) which makes provision for sabbaticals for teachers;
- the return of the HSCL teacher to the oversight of the Department of Education and the restoration of the principal’s right to assign whomever they feel is bestsuited to meet the needs of their individual school to the role of HSCL; and
- the protection of the Early Start Programme.
- that schools are given the timeframe about the next roll out of the DEIS programme and confirmation that additional schools will be included in the scheme; and
- that the criteria for including additional schools in the DEIS programme would be transparent and directly in line with current data on disadvantage as per Department of Education Census 2016.
Item 10: Equal employment opportunities
Congress fully commits to protecting equal employment opportunities, participation and treatment, particularly with regard to recruitment and promotion, of all teachers regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Congress commends the proactive steps taken by many schools to create a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for LGBT+ staff, parents and pupils and wholly condemns any homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes that may be expressed, including implicitly, in schools.
Congress calls on the CEC to:
a. ensure that all Republic of Ireland members are made aware of the changes to Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act via the Equality Miscellaneous Provisions Act (2015) and what this means in practice for them and that all members in Northern Ireland are made aware of the Fair Employment and Treatment Order (1998, 2003) and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act and what they mean in practice for them.
b. ensure that guidance in LGBT+ inclusion (with regard to staff, parents and pupils) is included in INTO CEC and Officer training, National Committee training and INTO Principal Seminars for the 2021/2022 and 2020/2023 school years, and the need reviewed thereafter;
c. provide all INTO members with access to:
- information on LGBT+ terminology and identities;
- examples of best practice with regard to proactive inclusion of LGBT+ staff, parents and pupils;
- resources designed to aid schools in the development of their practice in this area;
d. provide clear leadership through the union with regards to correct and appropriate use of gender pronouns by:
- ensuring all INTO documents use gender inclusive language (he/she/they);
- asking for the gender of members only when necessary;
- allowing for a wide range of responses when this information is required (male/female/non-binary/transgender male/transgender female etc);
- encouraging cisgender members to share their gender pronouns (e.g. as part of introductions or in their email signature) to create a safe space for transgender and non-binary colleagues to do likewise;
- informing other educational partners in both jurisdictions (including their respective Departments of Education, Employing Bodies and Authorities, NISTR and Teaching Councils) of the necessity to be gender inclusive in their approach to facilitate participation of transgender and non-binary teachers in their systems and processes;
e. ask the Departments of Education in both jurisdictions to take steps to make teaching an attractive and proactively welcoming career option for LGBT+ people.
- condemns the recent changes (issued on 30 March 2021) to the priority listing for teachers within the national vaccination programme, which were announced by Government without consultation with workers’ representatives.
- demands that the government re-instates education staff as a priority group within the national vaccination programme, considering: the essential nature of their work which requires them to be in daily contact with a large number of persons from a large number of households and considering that social distancing is problematic and not assured given the crowded nature, structure and layout of our workplaces.
- further demands early vaccination within the overall cohort of education staff, for pregnant teachers, those in higher risk categories and those who work in special schools, special classes and home school community liaison teachers.
- In the event that Government does not agree to schedule by the end of the current school year, vaccinations on the basis demanded above, Congress instructs the Central Executive Committee to ballot members for industrial action, up to and including strike action.
Motions passed in private session can be viewed by INTO members here.