Vote No. 1 Education

As part of our campaign to put education on the agenda during the 2020 General Election campaign, we asked the political parties to respond to questions on our key issues. Below are the responses received.

 

Pay Equality:

The ASTI has been at the forefront of the campaign for equal pay for post 2010 entrants to teaching for several years. This included ASTI members taking industrial action in opposition to the injustice of unequal pay.

Q. What action will your party take to ensure that pay inequality for post 2010 entrants to teaching is fully addressed?

People Before Profit: In 2016, PBPA representatives publicly backed the ASTI's industrial action for equal pay, visited pickets to offer support to striking teachers, and raised the issue repeatedly in the Dáil. We will continue to raise the issue in the Dáil in order to put pressure on the government parties and we will support any future industrial action taken by the ASTI.

Fine Gael: Fine Gael has acknowledged that addressing the issue of the difference in pay for post 2010 entrants is unfinished business. We will resolve this in the context of the upcoming negotiations on a future pay deal. We want negotiations to start so that this pay deal can commence in January 2021 and we have included costings in our Manifesto of €2 billion for the new pay deal. Unlike Fianna Fáil, we will not delay these negotiations by establishing a Pay Commission and waiting for it to report before commencing negotiations and they have only provided a reference to using “part of” a €1.2 billion unallocated fund in their manifesto.

 

FEMPI:

ASTI members paid a huge price in terms of the penalties imposed under FEMPI legislation during the new-entrants’ to teaching dispute in 2016/2017. Many continue to suffer in terms of lost and delayed increments.

Q. What action will your party take to ensure that the incremental dates for progression up the pay scales of ASTI members, that were adjusted during the industrial dispute of 2016/2017, are restored to their original dates?

People Before Profit: PBPA utterly condemns the use of emergency legislation to undermine trade union rights. We have repeatedly called out FEMPI in the Dáil and will continue to put pressure on government parties to repeal the legislation in full.

Fine Gael: This is a matter that needs to be resolved through discussions once outstanding legal issues are resolved.

 

Investment in Education:

Successive OECD reports have shown that Ireland comes almost last of the OECD countries in funding for each second-level student relative to our wealth. The most recent report in 2019 placed Ireland last out of 35 countries in investment as a proportion of GDP per capita. Overcrowded classes remain rampant in the second-level system.  Students with special educational needs are not receiving adequate support. Teachers cannot access appropriate and meaningful Continuous Professional development.

Q. If elected to Government, will your party commit to ensuring that the level of funding for second-level schools will be raised to the OECD average during the next Dáil?

People Before Profit: If PBPA is part of a left government, we will end the de facto government policy of chronic underfunding of public services. We will properly fund public services, including education. We will reduce class sizes to a maximum of 18 pupils per class; reduce teaching hours to a maximum of 18 hours per week; fully fund Science and computer labs; ensure that each school has a PE hall; and fully fund services for Special Educational Needs students. We will end unequal pay for teachers. We will ensure that any professional development for teachers does not take place during teachers' family or personal time.

Fine Gael: School Capitation is the key funding that schools receive and we have increased it by 5% in Budget 2019 and 2.5% in Budget 2020, despite the Brexit challenges and we have committed in our manifesto to a 5% increase each year over 5 years and allocated €60 million for this in our manifesto costings. By contrast the Fianna Fáil manifesto commits to €20 million for school capitation (less than 2% a year).

 

Recruitment and Retention – Teachers Wellbeing:

There is a major recruitment and retention crisis in second-level schools. The fall of over 50% in the numbers applying for places on the PME postgraduate teacher education courses between 2011 and 2018 was substantial.

The inexorable onslaught of increased workload for teachers has continued unabated. Initiative overload has exacted an enormous price. An ASTI survey carried out by RedC in 2018 found that job satisfaction amongst second-level teachers has dropped from 77% in 2009 to 50% in 2019. The implications for the mental health and wellbeing of our teachers must be addressed.

A proper and realistic promotional structure will have to be put in place. The lack of opportunities for promotion remains a real problem. These are just some of the many issues.

QA. If elected to Government, what actions will your party take to address the recruitment and retention crisis in second-level schools?

People Before Profit: If PBPA is part of a left government, we will properly resource the education system. We believe the restoration of equal pay and the restoration of teachers' pay and conditions, which were devastated during the crisis, is necessary to attract teachers back into the profession. We do not believe that the recruitment crisis can be solved by marketing-based initiatives such as 'Teachers Inspire'.

Fine Gael: Fine Gael in Government has recognised the growing demand at second level and has recruited more teachers and invested in the opening of new schools and the extension of existing schools. We have responded to the issues that have arisen with teacher supply at post primary level identifying those specific areas where there is an issue with recruiting teachers including STEM, Irish and home economics among others. We have published a Teachers Supply Action Plan, launched a “Teaching Transforms” and have supported a number of initiatives including supporting the NAPD and IPPN online recruitment. 

 

QB. If elected to Government, what actions will your party take to improve teachers’ working lives?

People Before Profit: If PBPA is part of a left government, we will reduce a teacher's class-contact time to a maximum of 18 hours per week without loss of pay. Rather than curricular reform being imposed by the NCCA and the DES, we will enable teachers to have a genuine democratic input into how we can increase investment to improve the system.

Fine Gael: We want to support schools by increasing funding, responding to the increasing level of demand for places at secondary school  and improving facilities in schools. Teachers, like all workers in Ireland, need to see the economic recovery reflected in the level of tax they pay. Fine Gael wants to lift the tax burden on low and middle income workers by increasing the USC threshold to €20,000 and increasing the point at which individual workers hit the higher tax rate from the current level of €35,300 to €50,000.

 

Curriculum:

The implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle has been fraught with difficulties. Before the rollout of the Framework for Junior Cycle has been completed, the NCCA has initiated a review of Senior Cycle education. ASTI believes that the mistakes of the past must not be repeated. There is a need for a full and proper evaluation of the Framework for Junior Cycle before any proposals for Senior Cycle are brought forward.

QA. If you are elected to Government, will your party commit to ensuring that a full and proper evaluation of the Framework for Junior Cycle is conducted prior to any proposals for Senior Cycle reform being brought forward?

People Before Profit: If PBPA is part of a left government, we will suspend the rollout of Junior Cycle pending a complete review of the problems it is causing for teachers and students, as well as review the corporate agenda driving the reform.

Fine Gael: Fine Gael believes that the Junior Cycle has undergone a major reform over the last few years. In our manifesto we commit to continuing to embed the new changes and keep the new system under review, as the first generation of students who were taught under the new cycle sit exams. We will develop a special core status for History and have it in place for September 2020.

 

QB. In addition, will your party commit to ensuring that upon completion of such an evaluation, there will be a comprehensive and meaningful consultation process with all stakeholders to discuss any changes?

People Before Profit: We believe that teachers are not just another 'stakeholder'. They are central to the success of any reform and must therefore have genuine democratic input into any curricular reform. Consultation is not enough.

Fine Gael: Education is at the heart of Fine Gael’s ambitions for the future of our country. We believe that working closely with all the education partners is the best way to address the issues that arise. At primary level we have established the Primary Education Forum which has worked well and is a good model for the future.

 

Student and Parent Charter:

The Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 was initiated in the Seanad last year. The proposed legislation required that every school must publish and operate a Student and Parent Charter in accordance with national guidelines published by the Minister. ASTI’s view is that it was not an inclusive piece of legislation, best exemplified in the title of the bill. Teachers were excluded.

The bill also promised to address the necessity to introduce statutory provisions that provide for procedures for dealing with grievances of students (over 18) or their parents relating to the school. This is something that ASTI has supported but believe that this is a matter that should have been dealt with separately as a single piece of legislation.

Q. What actions will your party take, if legislation for a Charter for Schools is being enacted, to ensure that it is inclusive and accords equal status to all stakeholders in schools?

People Before Profit: The Student-Parent Charter is designed to marketise the education system by re-positioning students/parents as consumers in a market of education providers. As such, it is deeply regressive and should be resisted.  We will oppose the Student-Parent Charter legislation and seek a separate piece of legislation for grievance procedures.

Fine Gael: The Education (Student & Parent Charter) Bill 2019 seeks to build on the best practice that already exists in many of our schools and shift away from reacting to issues after they have arisen to an approach which aims to improve the day to day interaction of students and parents with schools while also reforming the grievance process.

 

Pension Parity:

The principle that there should be pension parity between serving and retired teachers has long been defended by ASTI. This is the concept that any increases in the pay of serving teachers are also applied to our retired members. Essentially, pensions should be index-linked to future public pay increases.

Q. If you are elected to Government will your party commit to ensuring that Pension Parity is maintained for the duration of the next Dáil and beyond?

People Before Profit: Yes, we believe pension parity should be maintained indefinitely into the future and not made conditional on any public sector pay agreement.

Fine Gael: This is a matter that could be considered in the context of future pay discussions.

 

Flat-rate Expenses:

The Revenue Commissioners announced that it planned abolition of flat-rate expenses for teachers in recent years. It attempted to do so with effect from January 1, 2019 and again from January 1, 2020. Revenue has referred an impending review to the Tax Strategy Group with a view to delaying implementation until January 1, 2021. ASTI believes that the proposal should be abandoned.

Q. If you are elected will your party commit to ensure that flat-rate expenses for teachers are retained?

People Before Profit: We agree that flat-rate expenses should be retained and indeed revised upwards given the expectations on teachers to use ICT equipment in their daily work.

Fine Gael: The Revenue Commissioners have undertaken a review of the flat rate expenses allowance and we will await the outcome of that review.

 

For further information regarding the political parties’ education policies, click the links below to read the respective manifestos… 

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil

The Labour Party

The Green Party

People Before Profit

Sinn Féinn

Social Democrats