Teacher unions in Northern Ireland launch manifesto ahead of general election

Today, the teacher unions in Northern Ireland – Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), the National Education Union (NEU), and the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) – have united to launch a joint education manifesto ahead of the forthcoming General Election. Representing the majority of teachers in Northern Ireland, these unions are today issuing a clarion call for all political parties to prioritise education in their campaigns.

Three Strategic Objectives for Education

The manifesto outlines three strategic objectives to address the pressing challenges facing Northern Ireland’s education sector:

  1. Increase Education Funding
    The INTO, NEU, and UTU demand a substantial increase in funding for the education sector, emphasising the need for robust financial support.
  2. Invest in the Teaching Workforce
    The three unions are calling for fair and consistent management of workloads for Principals, Vice-Principals and teachers. This initiative aims to ensure that educational professionals can effectively fulfil their roles, ultimately benefiting student learning and development.
  3. Support Special Educational Needs
    A commitment to adequate financing, support, and resources for Special Educational Needs in all schools is also a key demand. The unions stress that proper support for SEN is essential for inclusive and equitable education.
A Critical Juncture for Education

These initiatives come at a crucial time, as Northern Ireland grapples with a cost-of-living crisis, a housing crisis and a concerning exodus of talented teachers seeking opportunities abroad. Recruitment and retention challenges are exacerbated by the Europe’s largest class sizes and inadequate leadership opportunities, which hinder the prospects of a fulfilling career in education.

Call for Political Action

The INTO, NEU, and UTU are urging politicians to forge a long-term strategy that shields education from austerity measures imposed by Westminster. They advocate for a Programme for Government in the new assembly that places education at the heart of all policies and programmes.

The unions have vowed to vigorously oppose any detrimental changes to the education system that could negatively impact their members and the future prospects of young people in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the Education Manifesto, INTO Northern Secretary Mark McTaggart said:

Our manifesto is a call to action for all political parties. Northern Ireland’s education system is at a breaking point, and it is imperative that we invest in our schools, support our teachers and ensure that every child, especially those with special educational needs, receives the resources they deserve. This is not just about education; it’s about the future of our society. We need a long-term strategy that protects education from austerity and puts it at the centre of government policy.

Pauline Buchanan NEU Joint Regional Secretary said:

Education is in urgent need of support. Political parties must take this opportunity to make a strategic long-term investment in every child by resourcing the education they deserve. This cannot be achieved without addressing the recruitment and retention crisis which has been contributed to by the failure to address teachers’ workload and real term pay cuts. We call on all political parties to increase funding, invest in the workforce and adequately support each child with special educational needs.

UTU General Secretary Jacquie White also went on to say:

The needs of our children and young people must be at the centre of political decision-making as we move forward. To achieve that our political parties must focus their attention on building and maintaining a sound education workforce and ensuring that the appropriate school places and support services are in place for every child. Investment must be directed towards making the education system one which attracts and retains highly qualified and motivated staff and creates a viable pathway for every child. There is no other way to build a strong basis for our society moving forward.

This manifesto is a bold statement of intent from the teaching community, underscoring the urgent need for political commitment to safeguard and enhance the future of education in Northern Ireland.

Click here to read the Education Manifesto.