12th July 2021
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has today launched our annual pre-budget submission, titled We can do better. Throughout the week we will be briefing representatives of the different political parties on the priorities for primary education ahead of Budget 2022.
The pandemic has laid bare the lack of investment in our primary education system. Successive governments have failed in their duty to ensure our primary schools are funded, our school leaders supported, and our class sizes lowered. As we move forward, now is the time to commit to a long- term strategic investment in primary and special education.
The standard of entrants to teaching, of pupils’ literacy and numeracy levels and of public satisfaction with education is high, but class sizes and funding are bottom of the league and school leaders require urgent support.
Smaller classes have a positive impact on pupils’ learning and development, contributing to better life outcomes. During the pandemic, we had the particular shame of being the only country in the EU to issue guidance for social distancing in classes of 30 or more. The government has the opportunity over the next few years to bring our class sizes into line with the rest of Europe. We hope they will seize that opportunity.
Our principals deserve the support they need to be leaders within their schools. Principals and teaching principals in Irish primary schools are overworked, underpaid and struggling under never-ending administrative work emerging from the Department of Education and other state agencies. It is time to address workload issues. After years of campaigning, this year, as part of a range of pandemic supports, we finally secured one leadership and management day (release day) per week for our teaching principals. We must ensure this is now guaranteed every year.
Strong schools are led by strong school management teams. During the pandemic, school leaders relied on their colleagues as never before to implement changes at school level. Change won’t end and it is time to restore the key middle management posts cut during the recession. Middle management posts stand at 73% of what they were in 2009, but the workload in schools has increased significantly. We want to see these posts restored, over a two-year period.
School funding remains shamefully low for primary education, standing at one euro per pupil per school day. So many teachers have become fundraisers, raising funds to cover basic school costs. Over the last 18 months, fundraising efforts have been decimated and many schools will struggle to meet basic expenditure. It is time to restore school funding to pre-recession levels.
If we value primary education, rhetoric needs to be backed up with investment. Over the course of this crisis, we have heard many politicians highlight the essential function of primary and special education. We hope politicians will follow through on their commitments and demand the necessary budget funding needed to meet the challenges of primary education.
In this pre-budget submission, we set out the INTO’s key priorities to government ahead of Budget 2022.