Teachers to withdraw from probation scheme

INTO conference hears that experienced, external teachers should assess probationary teachers

Teachers at the INTO conference expressed dismay about restrictions on and changes to sick leave entitlements

Teachers at the INTO conference expressed dismay about restrictions on and changes to sick leave entitlements

 

Primary teachers will withdraw from supervising the probationary period of their newly-qualified colleagues, the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) has decided.

Gregor Kerr, a teacher from north inner city Dublin who proposed the motion, said experienced, external teachers should be the ones to assess probationary teachers under the Teaching Council’s new Droichead scheme.

There are currently more than 330 primary and post-primary schools registered for Droichead, while almost 400 newly-qualified teachers have participated in it since September 2015.

A number of school principals who have worked on the pilot project said they had seen huge advantages in Droichead. Kay Foley, a teaching principal from Middleton, Co Cork, said the Teaching Council had listened to teachers and principals on what worked best in schools, and newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) could complete their induction in as little as 60 days.

“The mentoring, meetings and support from the Professional Development Service Team has been valuable, and Droichead provides a pathway for some NQTs to stay in special schools and still get their registration. I would rather spend my time on this than other less relevant issues. This scheme allows us to cherish our NQTs and offer them a really supportive and scaffolded model of induction. We should stay involved and make a difference. An external model of assessment is available and we can look for that.”

However most delegates did not agree. Jan Lyons, a Dublin teacher who passed through her probationary period two years ago under the old system, where all the assessment was conducted externally, said she would have struggled if her colleagues and school principal had been watching and assessing her every move.

“I was able to turn to them for support, but under Droichead I would have been afraid to be myself; I would have been terrified of putting a foot wrong. I can’t begin to imagine the chilling effect it would have in a school if a new teacher didn’t feel supported.”

The conference also heard how the workload of principals and school leaders was continuing to increase, and called for one administrative release day per week for all teaching principals, as well as the restoration of in-school management structures and the payment of a second benchmarking award to principals and deputy principals.

Teachers at the conference expressed dismay about restrictions on and changes to sick leave entitlements, and that miscarriage is not treated as an illness for the purpose of sick leave. One teacher with a chronic illness told how she loves her job as a teacher and said she never lets her work suffer.

“But come 3pm I cry from exhaustion. My medical expenses last year were in excess of €30,000. I’m scared to take leave when I need to. I take minimal sick leave but I don’t know what lies ahead if I need to take extended leave.”