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'High quality education at risk due to teachers' working conditions, pay inequality' - ASTI President

Addressing the serious deterioration in teachers’ working conditions and the inequitable pay of recent entrants to the teaching profession is essential to maintaining a high quality second-level education system, the new ASTI President Deirdre Mac Donald has stated.

Ms Mac Donald – a maths and SPHE teacher at Coláiste Éamonn Rís in Wexford – will begin her term as ASTI President tomorrow (August 1st 2019). Along with education, the new President is an expert in health promotion, specialising in mental health promotion and workplace health promotion. She has worked on national and European projects in these areas and addressed international conferences on these issues.

The teachers’ leader said that second-level teachers have experienced a considerable worsening of their terms and conditions over the past 10 years: “Pay cuts for existing teachers and the inequitable treatment of newer entrants to the profession have resulted in widespread teacher shortages. Since 2010, teachers entering the teaching profession are on different pay scales than their colleagues and lose out substantially over the duration of their careers. Schools are experiencing severe difficulties recruiting teachers as graduates leave the country or choose other careers.”

“Cuts to funding and resources in second level education came at a time when a number of major change initiatives were thrust upon schools,” said Deirdre Mac Donald. “Many of these changes are ongoing and involve significant additional workload and responsibilities for teachers. They have been implemented without any consideration of their impact on the welfare of teachers.”

“Recent research by RedC, commissioned by the ASTI, found a worrying decline in teacher morale and provides the hard evidence that workload and work pressures have become unsustainable for second-level teachers. These findings are in line with international research in occupational health and teacher stress. “

“Generations of Irish students have received a premium quality education and we want to ensure this continues to be the case. Unless we address the issues of teacher workload, teachers’ health, and the injustice of pay inequality, our young people will not get the world class education they need and deserve.”

The ASTI represents just under 17,000 second-level teachers.