INTO launch Budget 2022 campaign – We can do better!

As schools around the country reopen their doors, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has today launched a public campaign to secure critical investment in our primary and special schools. Following the publication of our pre-budget submission earlier in the summer, the union has set out four key areas of investment required from the forthcoming budget.

Launching the public awareness campaign, INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

The pandemic laid bare a decade of poor investment in primary education. When calamity hit, we were exposed, more so than many of our closest European neighbours. We can do better for teachers, for primary pupils and for their parents, by investing in four critical areas – reducing our class sizes, supporting school leaders, guaranteeing every child has access to a qualified teacher and adequately funding our schools. How many times over the last eighteen months have we heard that primary education is an essential public service? Now is the time for government to turn rhetoric into action and guarantee we are never as exposed again.”

#1 Budget 2022 must reduce class sizes

Smaller classes support inclusion and diversity, allow for more individual attention and meet the ambition of our government to establish the best education system in Europe. Irish primary class sizes remain the largest in the European Union.

The average class size in Irish primary schools is more than 23:1 compared to the EU average of 20 pupils per class.

85% of primary pupils are taught in classes above the European average and more than one seventh of pupils in our primary schools learn in a supersized class of more than 30 pupils. The falling demographics in primary schools present a unique opportunity to reach EU norms, through retention of the existing teacher numbers.

How much does it cost?

It would cost €14.5 million in a full year and €4.8m in 2022 to reduce class sizes by one student. (Source: Dáil Q&A no. 406 and 407, 1 June 2021)

#2 Budget 2022 must support school leaders

At the heart of a strong school community is a well-supported school leader. During the pandemic, our school principals rose to the challenge time and time again. It’s critical that teaching principals have time to carry out administrative duties and all schools should have a full restoration of middle management posts. In addition, access to a supply panel of substitute teachers reduces workload for principals and ensures that every child can be taught by a qualified teacher, every day.

Restore middle management posts

Budgets since 2017 have failed to build on restoration of middle management posts, started in Budget 2017. Over 5,000 posts of assistant principal were lost during the recession and the number of middle management posts remains at 73% of what it was in 2009. Budget 2022 must begin the process of delivering the restoration of these posts.

How much does it cost?

The estimated cost of lifting the moratorium on posts of responsibility and restoring them to pre-moratorium levels at primary level over a two-year period would be €9.5m per annum and €3.15m in 2022. (Source: Dáil PQ no. 424, 1 June 2021)

A minimum of one release day per week for teaching principals

Budget 2022 must provide for the continuation of a minimum of one leadership and management day (release day) per week to enable teaching principals to focus on the vast functions of school leadership they are responsible for. The INTO secured this during the pandemic. We reiterate our demand that this needs to be guaranteed each and every year, to provide for the time to engage in the management of the school.

How much does it cost?

The cost of providing one leadership and management day for every teaching principal is €17 million per year. Source: Dáil Q&A no. 408, 1 June 2021). This includes the cost of all days and does not represent the difference in cost between the existing entitlements and the cost of a day per week.

#3 Budget 2022 must establish supply panels on a nationwide basis

This union has consistently advocated for the establishment of teacher supply panels to provide substitution for teacher absences. The substitute teacher supply panel has been expanded from a pilot scheme consisting of six base schools to 125 substitute teacher supply panels nationwide, with almost 350 newly appointed supply panel teachers employed, providing substitute cover to over 2,400 schools across the country. This must be extended to cover all primary and special schools.

How much does it cost?

No cost was provided by the Department of Education on the running of a national supply panel. (Source: Dáil PQ no. 436, 1 June 2021). We estimate that an additional 100 posts would be required to provide cover to every school. Most of the cost of these panels is already provided for from the substitution budget.

#4 Budget 2022 must increase school funding

School capitation grants were significantly reduced during the recession. While these grants have decreased, many costs associated with running schools have risen. An immediate capitation restoration is now needed for schools’ basic needs.

A survey undertaken by the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) found that parents pay €46 million to support basic school funding each year.

The current grant of €183 per pupil – a euro per day in the primary school year, represents a 9% decrease on the 2010 figure. The Consumer Price Index has increased by 9% since then.

How much does it cost?

It would cost €10 million in a full year to increase primary school capitation to pre-2011 levels and €3.3m in 2022. (Source: Dáil PQ no. 425, 1 June 2021).