The President of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, Donegal man John Boyle has called on the Education Minister to give equal treatment to new entrant teachers, to primary school leaders and to the primary education system.
Half a century on in the room where Minister Donogh O Malley announced Free Secondary Education, Mr Boyle addressed more than 400 guests who attended the INTO Presidential Dinner at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire on Saturday evening.
The gala event was held to honour Mr Boyle, who is President of Ireland’s largest teaching union the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation. The INTO will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018.
Mr. Boyle reflected on a seminal event in the history of Irish Education in his address to the huge gathering of educationalists.
Former Minister For Education Donogh O Malley announced Free Secondary Education at a dinner in the same hotel in September 1966.
Before the formal proceedings John accompanied by his wife Carmel and his sisters Grace, Mary, Anne and Ita, joined members of the Mullaghduff Fife and Drum Band Band who gave a rousing rendition of ‘The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls”.
This set the tone for a great evening of celebration, particularly among the huge contingent of INTO members who travelled from Donegal. The venue was adorned with Donegal colours with the Mullaghduff Band’s banner hanging prominently from the stage.
Prior to being elected President John represented 3000 teachers from South Dublin and Wicklow on the Central Executive Committee. The organisers of the banquet District VIII Committee of INTO presented John with a beautiful Marie Carroll painting entitled ‘The Road to Errigal Mountain’ and his 50 teaching colleagues from St. Colmcille’s Junior N.S., Knocklyon provided a cake decorated in the Donegal colours.
In a wide ranging address John thanked his father Owenie Boyle, his late mother Breid and everyone who had influenced him during his career in education since he first enrolled in Mullaghduff National School in 1968.
He made a strong case for equal treatment for the primary education sector, for primary school leaders and especially for pay equality for young teachers stating that he was doubly determined to progress these issues during his year in office.
“A chairde, 51 years ago on an autumn Saturday evening in this very room one of the most celebrated speeches about education in Ireland was delivered here by Minister Donogh O Malley, when he announced free secondary education stating that:
“We will be judged by future generations on what we did for the children of our time”
“That message is as important now as it was then. It is important in the context of the children we teach but for the trade union movement it is equally important for our newest members and for our future members.
“I actually share a vision with the current Minister Richard Bruton, who is striving for a world class education system by 2026. But we differ in our approach to achieving that goal. And ironically one of the main reasons that we differ is, I believe, due to the unintended consequences of Donogh O Malley’s speech here in 1966. The INTO was one of the first representative bodies to welcome free secondary education, in fact it had been the policy of the County Donegal branch of INTO for the previous 50 years since then Secretary Peadar O Donnell’s motion was passed at the AGM.
“Donogh O Malley and his Ministerial colleagues were astonished that free secondary education would cost much less than they had envisaged. And so the model of high level funding for post-primary schools began. In my view throughout the 50 years since, as the number of children completing secondary schooling and then pursuing third level has grown dramatically, successive governments have turned their backs on the primary sector. Education funding in Ireland is upside-down. We increase investment in education as children progress through the system.
“The OECD Education at a Glance 2017 report which compares education systems across the globe shows that in Ireland, lowest spending is to be found at primary level. For every 8 euro spent on a primary pupil, 11 is spent at second level and 14 at third level.
This blatant inequity must be addressed in Budget 2018 next week.
“If we spent as much money on the primary system as we do in the later stages, we would see enormous benefits. The top down approach to funding is utterly flawed. All research tells us that early investment is wise investment in education. A child who leaves primary school with a solid foundation in all areas of the curriculum, but especially in literacy, numeracy and life skills will derive more benefit from all subsequent stages of education. Society will also reap the rewards of funding parity in education.
“This inequality is purely historic. If we correct this anomaly the primary sector would be able to deliver even better standards of education for our children. The return on this investment would be seen throughout the education system and beyond.
“The OECD report shows most countries are spending more per student than at the start of the crisis in 2008. Ireland is an exception. Education at a Glance shows spending in Ireland has fallen against comparable EU countries in recent years. The main reason for this was that starting salaries for teachers are now below the OECD average from a point where Irish teachers had a salary advantage over counterparts in other countries. This shows the extent of the cuts to new entrant pay imposed by government in recent years and the pressing need to address pay inequality in the teaching profession. The report shows that despite new Irish teachers being underpaid they are among the most productive. They teach more pupils than teachers in other countries. The average class size in Irish primary schools is 25 compared to EU average of 20 pupils per class.
“If I were Minister Bruton tonight three days before budget 2018, I would be as brave as Donogh O Malley was 50 years ago. I would announce that during the lifetime of this government over the next three budgets, I would end all of the inequalities in my sector – I would upwardly equalise funding between primary and secondary, I would provide equal pay for equal work in the classroom and I would pay primary school leaders the same wages as post-primary principals and deputies.
“Although its only four years away, I genuinely believe that aim is very achievable. It’s not hard to imagine that by 2021:
• All of our young teachers will be in a position that their career earnings will be equal to the career earnings of those who began a decade earlier.
Everyone seems to agree that Equal Pay For Equal Work is vital but those who hold the purse strings still have not stated that they are willing to end the plague of pay inequality. Until such time as we have a prescription to treat the plague of pay inequality everyone in INTO will feel sick and as we all know a sick teacher cannot give their best to their students.
• Our class sizes will be at the European Average
• Our primary school leaders in the South will be paid the same as their post primary equivalents
• Our school budgets in primary will be the same as those in post-primary
• Children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and children with special educational needs will have the supports that they require
• All INTO members North and South will be paid at a rate befitting the status of their profession.
• Every Irish citizen will have the basics of a home and every Irish worker would have a living wage as a minimum. The issues of homelessness, unemployment and low incomes are also factors affecting our education system.
As President Nelson Mandela said “ As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world none of us can truly rest”
President of the Teachers Union of Ireland Joanne Irwin and A.S.T.I. President Ger Curtin, who have been working very closely with the INTO President also attended the event. It’s expected that the leadership of all three unions will participate in high level discussions regarding new entrant pay facilitated by the Labour relations Commission this week. All are determined to deliver an end to the discriminatory pay scale that was imposed on teachers who entered the profession since 2011.Tags: