“Residual austerity issues” having impact on teaching levels, says Murphy

Mike Finnerty 11 Sep 2023

People Before Profit TD and party spokesperson on Education, Paul Murphy, has called on the government to urgently address what he calls “the crisis that primary and secondary level teachers face.”

Murphy said his party have engaged with teachers, both primary and secondary, in the three main teacher unions, and has heard about issues that are present in the Irish education system ahead of the upcoming Budget measures.

He said these issues are having an impact on teachers and on the education that they can provide to students in both mainstream and in special classes.

“The crisis has been noted by experienced teachers since 2015 – it is more noticeable this year than ever with some teachers reporting missing up to 20% of their staffing,” Murphy claimed.

“In primary, Special Education teachers are being moved to focus on mainstream classes. Breaks are being worked through as supervision. And this is in classrooms with some of the worst Teacher-Pupil ratios in Europe,” he noted.

“In secondary, students can’t get their subjects taught and are taught by Leaving Cert classes by out-of-field teachers.”

“The impacts on people with special needs and those needing real support and guidance are severe,” he said.

“This is alongside a situation where Ireland has the highest pupil teacher ratio in Europe, where staffing numbers are down 20% according to some teachers. Special students are being let down by this situation where their teachers are having to fill in the gaps in mainstream classes.”

Murphy cited the Croke Park Agreement of 2010 as a major aggravating factor of the issue.

“Teachers are being denied career breaks and are being forced to work extra hours with reduced flexibility, higher workloads and more demands for change. Outcomes for students are reduced despite teachers’, principals’ and dedicated parents’ best efforts. Croke Park hours still remain a serious issue for teachers,” he stated.

“Teachers in primary and secondary level are still being faced with a multitude of issues which are having a major impact on their ability to teach and deliver for their students.”

“It is unacceptable that teachers are having to put up with low staff numbers due to the hurdles that many teachers have to face. This is driving people out of the profession,” he claimed.

He cited the cost of living and housing crisis, along with what he dubbed “residual austerity issues” such as the Croke Park Agreement as having a massive impact on teachers.

“This situation is unsustainable and the government must take radical action in the Budget to address this crisis, to increase teacher numbers, and to make teaching a viable career option again. Teachers must be guaranteed permanent contracts and a Dublin allowance should be introduced to tackle the particular crisis in the capital. This must go hand in hand with rent controls to bring rents down to affordable levels.”

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