Member update – Recent Developments

The INTO continues to liaise with Department of Education and relevant authorities on behalf of members during the summer break. The following member update details recent developments.

As this update is particularly detailed, we have provided shortcuts to each section – please click on the hyperlinks below to jump to relevant updates:

Holiday pay for substitute teachers

The Department of Education has confirmed that holiday pay for sub teachers is to be paid on 22 July, 2021.

Working arrangements for very high-risk teachers, pregnant teachers and SNAs

Last week the Department of Education (DE) issued another information note on working arrangements for very high-risk teachers, pregnant teachers and SNAs.

Following the provision of updated HSE guidance, the Department of Education (DE) has published Information Note 0025/2021, which advises and clarifies a number of issues – please see our recent update for further information.

The HSE advises those who are pregnant to talk to their obstetrician, midwife or GP about getting their COVID-19 vaccines. Maternity hospitals will arrange COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant members.

The INTO has produced a series of FAQs for members via the Covid-19 support hub.

Acting principals: clarification on Information Note TC 0013/2021

Section 4.1 of Information Note TC 0013/2021 states: “Where the OHS categorised a teacher/SNA as ‘Very High Risk’ at any time before or during the 2020/21 school year, the COVID-19 Health Risk Categorisation Report will automatically expire on 30th June, 2021 and therefore will no longer be valid beyond that date.”

In light of the above end date of 30 June, the DE has confirmed that it has, on an exceptional basis, agreed to continue to sanction the filling of an Acting Principal working in collaboration with a Principal the OHS categorised as VHR during the 2020/21 school year.

During the summer and the 2021/22 school year, this extension will apply until such time as the Occupational Health Service (OHS)/Medmark, having considered their OHS COVID-19 Risk Assessment Questionnaire, no longer categorise the Principal as VHR.

Pre-budget lobbying

During the last two weeks, the INTO has met with representatives of government parties Fine Gael, The Green Party and Fianna Fáil as well as members of most opposition parties, including Sinn Féin, The Social Democrats, The Labour Party and People Before Profit.

These representatives were presented with a synopsis of our pre-budget submission, which was launched last week.

In the series of meetings with political parties, the union set out the deficiencies in our primary system that need to be tackled in the forthcoming budget. Further details are available in our our pre-budget submission.

The INTO training for local lobbyists will be held online on Wednesday, 8 September. INTO’s local lobbyists will meet with TDs and Senators in every constituency in the build up to Budget 2022 in October.

Successful INTO Summer Learning Programme now closed

The INTO Summer Learning Programme is now closed after a successful series. Thanks to all participants, course tutors and designers for engaging with and supporting our courses.

INTO Learning held nine online DE-approved summer courses covering a range of curricular and professional topics. All of the INTO online courses ran at full capacity, facilitating the professional development of over 2,600 teachers.

Our new summer course for 2021, ‘Embracing Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Our Schools’, generated high levels of interest and engagement. INTO looks forward to building on the success of the summer programme with a comprehensive autumn learning programme to issue soon.

Summer Provision

Indicative figures from the department indicate that more than 34,000 pupils will benefit from 1,346 school-based schemes this summer – an increase of 161% on last year. For further details, see our recent update.

A significant number of schools will host summer programmes in August and a large number of our members are participating in home-based summer programmes for children with complex special educational needs.

The Department of Education has clarified that the substitution arrangements in Chapter 5 of Circular 0021/2021 will apply for the summer programme.

The INTO has produced FAQs covering school-based and home-based Summer Provision.

Discussions have also begun on an autumn supplementary programme for children with special educational needs.

Teaching Council issues

Form Ds: Friday, 30 July is the deadline for the submission of completed Form Ds by primary teachers who recently completed the Droichead process.

Covid-19 Amendment Regulation (CAR): The Teaching Council has decided that on an exceptional time bound basis, teachers who have qualified abroad can complete their induction here in Ireland. Teachers must apply no later than 29 October 2021 to be eligible. The Teaching Council has provided further information on how to apply for registration under this regulation.

Teaching Council Register: INTO members, including those returning from teaching overseas, are reminded to check the Teaching Council register to ensure that they are registered in advance of the 2021-22 school year.

Teacher supply

The INTO has been working closely with the Teaching Council to improve the availability of registered teachers.

The Teaching Council has indicated that school principals can avail of cross-sectoral substitution where, for example, any registered teacher can substitute in both primary and post-primary once vetted through the Council.

The Council operates a fast-track summer registration process each year to ensure that newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are registered in advance of the new school year. It is anticipated that over the summer approximately 3,400 newly qualified teachers will be added to the register.

Teachers who are graduating this summer are asked to follow the instructions, including completing their vetting, in the email that they receive from the Teaching Council when their results have transferred over from the higher education institutions.

Supply panels

The Department of Education has continued its review of the operation of 115 Supply panels in the last school year. The INTO understands that the Department has identified base schools and receiving schools for some more supply panels and that they will be in contact with these schools in the coming weeks. The INTO has sought the expansion of this scheme to all primary and special schools in our pre-budget submission.

The June edition of In Touch includes a feature on Our Year with the Supply Panel.

Principals’ Release Day Clusters

A significant number of schools with teaching principals have clubbed together to form new principals’ release day clusters. The INTO encourages all of our smaller schools to form clusters of five schools and to recruit a fixed-term teacher to cover their principals’ release days. An application form for release day clusters is available to download.

The June edition of In Touch includes a feature on The benefits of being in a principal release cluster and an update on Setting up a cluster for your principal release days.

Time frames for recruitment and appointment procedures reduced

Following continued engagement by the INTO, the Department of Education has recently published Information Note TC 0021/21.

To facilitate the timely recruitment of teaching staff and the appointment of principals and deputy principals (open competition), the time frames for advertising and interviewing as outlined in the department Circular 0044/2019 are reduced until further notification.

The Information Note also withdraws Information Note 0002/2020. The implementation of this Information Note by a board of management/ETB will constitute compliance with the agreed procedures as set out in Circular 0044/2019.

Staff inoculation

From today (21 July), persons aged 18–24 can register with the HSE for a vaccine. People in this age group have a choice of vaccines: while Pfizer and Moderna are recommended for 18–24-year-olds, they may get an AstraZeneca vaccine if it becomes available sooner. Further information is available via the HSE.

Those aged between 25–29 have been in a position to register for an mRNA vaccine since last Friday (16 July) via the HSE portal. It is anticipated that first vaccinations for the 25–29 age group will be administered within the next two weeks followed by the 18–24 age group.

Most doses will be delivered at the mass vaccination centres across the country. People who register in this way will be called in reverse age order.

Since Monday, 5 July, members aged under 35 have also been able to register for Janssen vaccines at local pharmacies.

The Central Executive Committee is encouraging our members to register for vaccines in order to be inoculated before schools reopen. When registering online, members will need their PPS number, Eircode, a mobile phone number and an email address. Registration may also be processed by telephoning 1800 700 700. 

Digital funding boost

The Department of Education has secured €63.5m under Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) for two important projects in the education sector.

Following strong lobbying of Minister Foley by the INTO at annual congress, the Department has now announced its intention to provide all primary schools with high-speed broadband connectivity by end 2022/early 2023. The first project will supplement delivery of high-speed broadband alongside delivery under the National Broadband Plan and commercial provision through the Schools Broadband Programme.

The aim of the second project is to provide schools with funding to support their learners who are most at risk of educational disadvantage through lack of access to appropriate digital infrastructure, thereby further addressing the digital divide. The INTO will engage with the Department to ensure that primary and special schools receive their fair share of this welcome extra funding.

This union’s recent submission to the Department of Education serves to underscore the discrepancies that persist in Irish primary and special schools. It emphasises the need to address these inadequacies in order for the ambitions of a revised digital strategy to be realised.

Further information, including concerns raised by the INTO and our recommendations for a revised digital strategy are detailed in our recent update.

Reopening of Schools

Senior INTO personnel will continue to maintain contact with the DE and public health on issues in advance of schools reopening in September. As new information is made available, we will endeavour to publish this information on the website and through our social media channels. Members are advised that several communications in respect of risk-mitigation measures and other public-health supports were communicated, at the INTO’s urging, to schools in June prior to the summer closure.