Since 2008, secondary school teachers and their students have been under attack and made into one of the scapegoats for the woes of society by the government and the media. Net wages have been savagely cut by up to 25%, work load has been drastically increased, class sizes have been detrimentally increased, funding for special needs obliterated, ill discipline within schools is on the rise, the list goes on and on.
This policy of cuts will inevitably lead to overburdening of teachers and ever growing frustration among students, all adding to a rapid deterioration in the learning environment within schools.
The four year recovery plan and the EU / IMF deal, which will be carried out by the new government has, according to the Department for Education, called for it to instruct management of all schools that vacant teaching positions within a school must be filled by permanent teachers moving from other schools, replacing the temporary teachers who are currently doing the job.
This will mean that thousands of teachers will become displaced and will have to join in the increasingly difficult search for a stable position within a school, often moving large distances from school to school each year.
This redeployment scheme is based on permanent teachers becoming available because of cuts in the last budget (1,200 posts), in particular teachers of students with special needs. It is also aligned to the increasing of the pupil teacher ratio which will make some teachers surplus to requirements and they can be shipped off to a school within 50 km of their current school. Not only will teaching jobs be lost but all those who are coming off the conveyer belt from college will more than likely be joining the social welfare or emigration queue. If current policy is pursued and permanent teachers are moved around at will every school year, the positions for new teachers will become less and less, adding to the unemployment in the country.
Newly qualified teachers who do manage to secure a job will now disgustingly do so as second class teachers. They will now start on pay scale 1, normally reserved for unqualified staff and on top of that, take a 10% cut in wages. This means entering the workforce on average, 14% less than what their colleagues started on. Teaching already has one of the longest incremental scales of any job – 22 years to reach full pay. To push these new teachers back further down the scale, coupled with the increase in working life now demanded before one can retire, is an absolute disgrace.
The ASTI has been ineffectual in opposing these attacks. Only 38% of ASTI members voted on the second Croke Park Deal which shows the disillusionment teachers feel towards their union leadership and the whole process.
The Croke Park Deal will not protect our jobs, pay, conditions or education standards and funding. A united campaign by all of the teachers unions linked to industrial action should be organised to challenge these attacks. The new government plan to continue where Fianna Fail left off. The leaders of the teachers unions need to be challenged by the members to change their tactics away from conciliation and compliance to opposition and resistance.