Primary teachers send SOS after ‘six years of hardship’

Ciara Gilligan, Scoil Cnoc Mhuire Junior, at the INTO Conference in Kilkenny. Photograph: Pat Moore.

Ciara Gilligan, Scoil Cnoc Mhuire Junior, at the INTO Conference in Kilkenny. Photograph: Pat Moore.


Primary teachers meeting in Kilkenny concluded their annual congress with an “SOS” for the education system “after the cumulative effect of six years of austerity and hardship”.

Members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation called for smaller numbers of pupils in classrooms, reduced workloads for principals, restoration of resources and pay, and meaningful support for small schools.

Mary O’Flaherty, from west Dublin, told the conference pupils in Ireland were likely to be in classes of 25 to 30 children.

‘Supersized classes’
She said it was “scandalous” that more than 120,000 children were in “supersized classes” of 30 or more. She told delegates 88 per cent of children were in classes of 20 or more, while only 12 per cent were in classes of less than 20.

She called on the Government to pledge to reduce class sizes to the EU average of 20 by 2016. “This would be a fitting commemoration.”

Joe McKeown, from Kilkenny, a member of the INTO’s central executive committee, described as “draconian and unwarranted” the decision by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to increase class sizes in small schools.

The congress called for a working group to examine issues of responsibilities, rights and workloads of principals and report within a year.

Crisis in school leadership
Emma Dineen, from Cork, said the job of school principal was untenable and the remuneration not worth it. She called on the Department of Education to wake up to the crisis in school leadership and establish a working group to look at the changing role, the added responsibilities and the never-ending workload.

Luke Kilcoyne, from Donegal, a member of the union’s committee of principals and deputy principals, said release time, free from classroom duties, was introduced for teaching principals in 2000. “Since 2002 there has been no increase in the number of release days. This might be tolerable if there had been no increase in the workload . . .”

Teachers called for support services and ongoing professional development for school leaders and demanded the moratorium on middle management be lifted.