Teachers ‘leaving in droves’ due to mountain of paperwork and rising living costs, INTO conference hears

`We are underpaid and undervalued, crippled by mortgages, childcare and the cost of living,’ says one delegate as teachers’ roles have changed

Teachers are “leaving education in their droves”, with an ever-growing amount of paperwork making the profession unrecognisable, delegates at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) annual conference have heard.

Sean Hegarty, a delegate from the union’s Dublin Tolka branch, told those attending the conference in Derry the role of teachers has changed significantly in the past decade, but their new roles and responsibilities are not reflected in their pockets.

“We are underpaid and undervalued, crippled by mortgages, childcare and the cost of living,” he said. “We are having to take on second jobs to cover bills, and many are going overseas for work, or leaving the profession.”

Gregor Kerr, a Dublin delegate, said that although there is a new pay agreement in place, teachers needed to start looking beyond this and to the next agreement.

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The conference also heard that those who entered the profession after 2011 suffered unequal pay for many years and, although the pay gap has narrowed, the abolition of special allowances for additional qualifications still leaves newer teachers at a financial disadvantage.

Rory Healy, a delegate from Tullow, Co Carlow, said it is crucial for teachers to upskill, but there are few financial incentives to do so.

Fergal Brougham, a school principal and delegate from Dublin northeast, said when he started teaching in the late 1980s, schools may have been lucky to have one remedial teacher. The situation had improved.

“On paper, we have a good system today,” he said. “But something is going wrong. We don’t have the correct environments for children with special needs – especially those with sensory needs. Teachers need training in dealing with complex needs and behavioural needs, but we are just bogged down in unnecessary paperwork and a bureaucratic quagmire.”

Delegates, meanwhile, instructed the union’s executive to negotiate with the Department of Education for “an allowance similar to the London weighting allowance – which sees teacher salaries topped up by 20 per cent for teachers in inner London and 15 per cent in outer London – to compensate for higher living costs in Irish cities.

Delegates said on Tuesday the cost of living in Irish cities, as well as “extortionate” accommodation costs, was making it difficult for schools in urban areas to recruit and retain teachers.

The decision follows a similar motion passed by delegates at last year’s INTO conference.

It is, however, unclear how the INTO executive will push forward this demand, with the other two teacher unions – the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) – opposed to additional pay for teachers based on geographic location.

Órlaith Ní Fhoghlú, a delegate from Dublin, said surveys had shown the hiring difficulties facing principals in Dublin. “There have been interventions around supply panels, but the current situation, where about two-thirds of vacant posts are in the Dublin area, cannot go on,” she said.

There was significant dissent on this issue, however, with many teachers opposed to the introduction of additional pay for those in cities.

Tomás O’Reilly, a delegate from Roscommon North, said that the weighting had not worked in London. “It is a misguided and ill-judged solution, and it will not help alleviate the teacher shortage or help the housing crisis,” he said.

INTO general secretary John Boyle said there is an obvious necessity for certain key public and private sector workers, who cannot work from home, to be near their workplace.

“But when we reported back to our members after the 2023 conference, we said that we had not progressed the issue [of an urban salary weighting]. Although we did raise it, the other 19 members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions did not make it a priority, and so it did not prevail. There are questions as to who would get the allowance – what are the parameters and is it for people who live in Dublin or people who work there but commute from a longer distance?”

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