31st January 2023
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) condemns the approach taken by the Department of Education in proposing key changes to professional development courses, which are undertaken by primary teachers outside of school time. Such summer courses provide important professional development for teachers, and the lack of consultation with their trade union on this matter is entirely unacceptable.
The department has set out that all online courses must contain eight hours of synchronous (real-time) learning. This move limits teacher choice and opportunity to participate in these courses, creates further obstacles for teachers juggling caring and parental commitments during the summer months and demonstrates a lack of trust in the profession.
This union wishes to put on record that no consultation took place in respect of these proposed changes. When we became aware unofficially that some changes were being mooted, we wrote to the department last week seeking a meeting to discuss any proposals that might be made. No such meeting was forthcoming.
Yesterday, a number of online course providers, including the INTO, sent a joint letter to the Minister for Education and the Teacher Education Section of the Department of Education challenging the lack of consultation, the absence of a pilot phase and the failure to produce any research evidence to support and ground such changes to summer course delivery.
It is also clear that these changes may have a knock-on impact on the delivery of summer provision programmes for our most vulnerable children, as many teachers will no longer be in a position to support this programme while completing their professional development courses.
The Department of Education has neglected system-led professional development for decades and relied on the summer course programme as a source of CPD for teachers who pay for their own courses, which are undertaken during their holidays. It is ironic that on the same day that trade unions and employer groups throughout Europe adopted a new framework of action on the attractiveness of the teaching profession, the Department of Education places further barriers in front of Irish primary teachers who have been upskilling willingly at their own expense for years. It is clear that the Department of Education has no real interest in recognising, valuing and meaningfully supporting ongoing professional development, the core pedagogical dimension of the teaching profession.
The Department of Education needs to get serious about providing the time and space for quality professional learning opportunities for teachers throughout their careers if they wish to meet the first goal in their own Statement of Strategy – to support the provision of high-quality education and improve the learning experience to meet the needs of all students, in schools and early years settings.
The INTO will continue to engage with the Department of Education on this matter.