Overworked school leaders are ‘chasing mice and unblocking toilets’

INTO says workloads for principals have increased exponentially in recent years

Delegates said a lack of time, increasing demands of the role were barriers to effective leadership. Photograph: iStock

Delegates said a lack of time, increasing demands of the role were barriers to effective leadership. Photograph: iStock


School leaders’ rising workloads mean they are spending much of their time “chasing mice, unblocking toilets and organising table quizzes ”, a teachers’ conference has heard.

Delegates at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation’s (INTO) annual congress said conditions of employment for principals and their deputies have increased exponentially in recent years.

Many said they were now struggling to ensure new initiatives, policies and paperwork are being implemented in full.

Daithi Ryder, deputy principal of a two-teacher school in Co Mayo, won warm applause and a standing ovation from delegates after providing an exhaustive list of his duties, which he described as the “two-teacher tango.”

“Roll books, teaching music, drama, sifting through the rainforest of mail every day, collecting milk and photo monies, preparing children for sacraments and the annual mass, table quizzes, raffles, 74.5 hours doing yard duty, including chasing stray dogs from the yard with a ruler and cleaning up after lost heifers... chasing mice and unblocking toilets,” he said. “How do I do it all? Look at my hair!”

Delegates said a lack of time, increasing demands of the role, as well as insufficient in-school middle management teams, were barriers to effective leadership.

School leaders called on the Department of Education to decrease the threshold for the appointment of administrative deputy principals.

In addition, they called for an increase in supports for boards of management to enable them carry out their duties.

Teaching principals also re-stated their call for a minimum of one day a week of “release time” to allow them to complete administrative duties as they try to balance their duties of full-time teacher and principal.

School leaders further demanded that an outstanding 2008 pay award made to principals and deputy principals, which was never paid, be addressed as a priority ahead of any further pay talks.

Positive work

Delegates at congress also supported a motion highlighting a “clear pathway which will achieve pay equality for all teachers”, a reference to those hired after 2011 on lower payscales.

Union members said they recognised positive work that has been done to advance the issue to date but said these measures fell well short of pay equality.

Joe McKeown, of the union’s central executive committee, said: “There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind, however, that as far as we are concerned, the only resolution to pay inequality is the restoration of pay equality for all teachers. That day can’t come soon enough.”

Minister for Education Joe McHugh earlier in the day pledged that moves to abolish two-tier pay scales for teachers will be given “full consideration” by the Government.

Mr McHugh acknowledged issues of “outstanding concern” would be considered either in the context of a pay review or the next pay deal.

Responding, the INTO’s incoming general secretary John Boyle said that while it was heartening to hear the Minister accept there was “unfinished business” on pay inequality, he said pay inequality must end in the next public service pay deal.