School secretaries and a two-tier system

 

Sir, – A sincere word of thanks to school teacher Maria Murphy in her letter of June 2nd. Words of appreciation are always welcome.

If only the Department of Education would make an effort to appreciate the school secretary by putting right a fundamental wrong and end the two-tier system where some secretaries are employed as public service staff under the 1978 scheme while others depend on capitation funding. This funding takes into account the general running of the school, and the wages of a secretary are only taken into account when other essentials are paid. Many of these dedicated staff have given more than 20 years of service, yet have no pension or sick leave, promotional opportunities, etc, and have to sign on during school closures.

The local school is at the heart of each community and the school secretary at the heart of each school, their role being a demanding one. The secretary is relied upon by principal, teachers, special needs assistants, pupils and parents. The first person of contact, the secretary, goes well beyond the call of duty to facilitate visitors, including parents, salespeople, HSE staff, dental/vision school visits, special education needs organisers, psychologists, community groups, parent committees, newly qualified teachers seeking substitute work, and students from various institutes looking for a placement, to mention a few.

As skilled administrators, we are regularly called upon to take on a wide range of duties, juggling reception and telephonist duties, and carrying out the daily tasks demanded by the Department of Education. Work undertaken by independent employment expert Sean McHugh demonstrated that the role of school secretary goes well beyond what would be expected of a clerical officer operating as a team member in the Civil Service, health or local government sectors. He found no distinction whatsoever between what is expected of Department of Education-paid and grant-funded secretaries. – Yours, etc,

KATHLEEN O’DOHERTY,

School Secretary,

Letterkenny,

Co Donegal.