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Category Archives: Education

The Taoiseach, the Minister for Education and Skills and the Government have broken their agreement with the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland.

They have locked out teachers and locked out 250,000 students. There is only one industrial relations agreement between the Department of Education and Skills and the ASTI and that is the Haddington Road agreement, freely entered into by the Department of Education and teachers. Except where that agreement explicitly states otherwise, the agreement expired last 30 June. Crucially, a key area where the agreement extends into the future is that of supervision and substitution and how these are to be paid for. The agreement states that:

A gross additional payment equivalent to the 2011 lower payment rate paid for supervision and substitution will be included in the common basic scale for teachers. This will be included in two moieties with half included in the school year 2016/17 and the second half included in the school year 2017/18.
Teachers turned up for work to teach but the Taoiseach and his Minister broke their agreement by refusing to pay for substitution and supervision. They closed schools, locked out teachers and locked out students rather than honouring an agreement that they freely entered into. They are prepared to pay parents, citizens and members of another union in the same school but they are not prepared to honour the agreement they freely made with the ASTI.

Clearly this is not a question of money. It is an attempt to coerce and bully a union into a new agreement and Mussolini, Franco and their Irish blueshirt ally, General O’Duffy, would be proud of the Taoiseach and his Government today. His claim that the ASTI has unilaterally withdrawn from Croke Park hours is completely false. The Haddington Road agreement makes no provision for the maintenance of these hours beyond 30 June and, as the Taoiseach well knows, the majority of teachers do additional hours far in excess of Croke Park on an ongoing basis to support and develop students in music, arts, drama, sports, transitional year projects, etc. In any event the Croke Park hours have not been worked for months and this has not necessitated the closure of schools.

The Taoiseach and his Government are breaking the Haddington Road agreement. They are locking out teachers and using students as pawns to bully the ASTI into an agreement. Will the Taoiseach stop breaking the Haddington Road agreement, pay for supervision and substitution and allow our students and children back to school? Will he and his Government stop locking out teachers and holding students as hostages to force a trade union into an agreement to which it is not party and which union members have rejected? The Taoiseach should leave William Martin Murphy, the infamous Dublin employer who locked out workers in 1913, in his grave. He can stop the lock-out today to allow teachers and students back to work and he should allow the right to free trade unions in this country.


In the very short time available to me, I will concentrate on primary education. Young people get one chance at primary education. They can re-sit their leaving certificate and do secondary education as part of a second chance programme or as a mature student. Third level is similar but they get only one chance at primary education. That is why it is vitally important that students get a good grounding and support at primary level. Primary education is the basis for all further learning and education. Every euro invested in primary education is invested in students and their future and will stand to them through the rest of their lives. Ensuring that every student is supported to reach his or her potential in primary school has lifelong benefits for employment and health prospects. Unfortunately, budget 2017 has failed primary education. There was no improvement in class sizes.

There is an average number of 25 pupils in our classes, as opposed to the EU average of 20. We have the second most overcrowded classrooms in Europe. Indeed, 100,000 of our children are being taught in classes with more than 30 students. Those students, in particular, have been abandoned by this Government. I remind the Minister that, despite the commitment in the programme for Government, the budget has failed to change class sizes for the better. All research shows that smaller classes work well for children and that no class should have more than 20 students.

Time and again, we are told that we have free education. The reality, of course, is very different. The failure to increase the daily funding for primary schools will leave them dependent on voluntary fundraising and parents’ contributions. The Government’s funding of 92 cent per pupil per day does not cover the basic running costs and puts huge stress on parents and principals, with them having to run quizzes, cake sales, church gate collections and race nights. This budget should have restored the pre-cut rate of €200 for capitation at the very least. That would have been a first step.

The budget does not deal with the restoration of lost posts, increased release time for teaching principals or parity of pay. Special needs children also do not appear to have been a priority in the budget. They still wait far too long for assessments. In fact, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has had to pay for these assessments on numerous occasions. The failure to fund and support primary schools properly is very short-sighted and must be reversed immediately.

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