DE misses chance to tackle climate emergency 

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is disappointed that the Department of Education has chosen to exclude vital resources and supports from the School Sector Climate Action Mandatepublished this week. A working draft of this document, previously circulated to education stakeholders, had provided for a wide range of critical supports.

As part of wider public sector targets, the Mandate seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and improve energy efficiency in the overall school sector to 50% by the same year.

As a union wholly committed to tackling the climate emergency, with members engaged and willing to play their part, the withdrawal of key resources and supports amounts to a wasted opportunity to propel the sector to the forefront of a renewed national effort.

Removal of school leadership role 

In a glaring omission from the published report, the previous draft Mandate had specifically sought to create a school leadership role to lead energy and sustainability efforts within the school community. Given the currently overworked and under-resourced school leadership teams, the Department of Education has chosen to do away with this key role rather than explore the restoration of assistant principal posts, which would have strengthened this endeavour.

Scaled back training 

As with any school-based initiative, training and development is essential. While the draft working document set out clearly the need for climate action and sustainability training at school level, the published guidance document significantly watered down this essential element. Furthermore, the Department of Education has ignored recommendations made by this union to ensure that the new mandate didn’t overly burden school leaders.

Annual workshop abandoned 

Plans for an annual staff workshop to explore ideas on how best to decrease the school’s carbon footprint, which would allow staff to generate innovate new ideas and buy into the national effort, were simply abandoned when the union sought clarity on in-service days to ensure these workshops could take place in every school in the country.

Reacting to the publication of the School Sector Climate Action Mandate this week, INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

As a trade union, we are wholly committed to playing our part to address the climate emergency as we seek to promote and achieve the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. This will require a renewed national effort to take the necessary steps to deliver on these essential goals. It is a great shame that the Department of Education has this week missed an opportunity to meaningfully engage with schools and support them in this mission. 

“The anodyne climate action mandate launched this week illustrates that the Department is tone-deaf to the voices of teachers and students, all of whom have ambitions for a more sustainable world. If climate action is to succeed in schools, key supports will have to be provided. Taking school communities for granted will lead to dire consequences.” 

Click here to read our submission on the Draft School Sector Climate Action Mandate.