Monday, 19th February 2018
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Dear Editor

At lunchtime on Thursday, 1st February, Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) members will protest against pay inequality outside the post-primary schools, FET Centres, colleges of further education and Institutes of Technology in which they work. Service to students will not be affected by the protest.

The purpose of the protest is to highlight the damage that pay inequality is inflicting on our schools/colleges and centres. Teachers and lecturers who entered the system since 2011 are paid at a lower rate than their colleagues for carrying out the same work. That inequality has undermined the teaching profession and corroded staff morale, leading to a crisis in the recruitment and retention of teachers. This inevitably impairs the quality of service to students. Students will miss out on subject choices and/or experience a fractured service due to retention problems.

Recruitment problems are evident both across the country and across a broad range of subjects including, but not limited to, Mathematics, Science, Modern Languages, Irish and Home Economics. Meanwhile, new subjects such as Politics and Society and Computer Science may not become widely available if teacher shortages persist.

A 62% collapse in applications for post-primary teacher training courses since 2011 speaks volumes, while a TUI survey in 2017 showed that 29% of new or recent entrants to the profession did not see themselves in the job in ten years’ time.

Graduates who might formerly have chosen teaching are now either choosing other employments or else pursuing teaching options in other jurisdictions, with the emigration rate of recently qualified post-primary teachers increasing dramatically, from 4% in 2008 to 18%-21% in 2014.

There have been various ill-judged suggestions of short-term measures or incentives to attract teachers to particular subject areas, which would set a dangerous precedent of prioritising subjects based on short-term needs at a moment in time. Rather than solving the recruitment and retention crisis, some of these 'fixes’ could exacerbate an already dire situation.

Students and communities will suffer unless this critical issue is appropriately and urgently tackled. The only guaranteed way of ensuring the retention of teachers and the recruitment of those needed for the future is to repair the professional integrity of teaching by restoring pay equality.

Yours etc,

Joanne Irwin,

President, Teachers’ Union of Ireland

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