I am a strong believer that it takes a village to rare a child. Teachers are only part of the equation and long before I became a parent myself, I understood clearly the value of parental involvement in the education of a child.
Indeed, far too many parents ignore this and tend only to get involved in their child’s education when something (usually behavioural) goes wrong. By this stage, everyone is trying to claw back the situation.
There is nothing more powerful in the school progress of a child than when the child knows his/her parents and their teacher are singing from the same hymn sheet.
For the government, however, this is bad news. The last thing the government wants is parents siding with teachers. A national association of parents is recognised in the Education Act 1998 and it is funded by the government. This is one way the government can be sure that the National Parents Association Post Primary (NPCpp) sides with the government. And it does.
There is nothing wrong with this per se. If the ASTI is wrong, it is wrong and the NPCpp should be able to call them out on it. But in every instance, the NPCpp should understand the structure of the relationships involved in education. (I make a distinction between the National Parents Association and ‘parents’).
The government is the service provider. If the National Parents Association has a problem with the service, it needs to complain to the service provider, not the teachers.
Notwithstanding that, it is important that the National Parents Association doesn’t lessen it’s own position by supporting a wrong cause.
Irish society has made big strides towards greater equality in recent years. This is particularly the case with women’s rights. There is quite a distance to go yet.
But the unilateral action taken by the government in implementing an unbalanced and inequitable financial emergency measure from the floor of the Dail that resulted in different pay scales for teachers, the majority of whom are women, was a step backwards from the equality that was fought so hard.
It is wrong and the National Parents Council should say so loudly to the government.
Perhaps the government thought that they would get away with it. And they nearly did. It looks like the TUI sold out on the principle of equal pay for equal work, and also INTO (without a ballot too). So it was going well, and then the Gardai had their say.
Now that the ASTI is not so marginalised, the government needs the NPCpp and it needs its media buddies to pile on the pressure.
But the unequal pay scales are wrong and the National Parents Council should say so loudly to the government.
There is much more to lose in this dispute than the badly constructed Lansdowne Road partial pay restoration agreement.
We need to ask ourselves as a society not just what kind of education system we want, but what kind of people we want teaching in it. We have added huge numbers of hoops that Graduate Student Teachers have to jump through to qualify. At the same time, the State has increasingly belittled the contribution that teachers make to society. The demands and expectations on teachers have increased while the societal value of being a teacher has decreased.
This is neither here nor there. We don’t need to play the béal bocht. People make their choices in life and live with the consequences. But I’m fairly certain every parent wants for their child a teacher with high levels of motivation and efficacy for the job. Unless society is prepared to esteem teachers it is only a matter of time before either teacher shortages or less capable teachers (or both) becomes the norm, as it has in other jurisdictions. This clearly would be bad for the land of saints and scholars.
Holding teachers in esteem doesn’t necessarily mean more pay (although that helps). No one has ever gone into teaching for the money. We enter teaching because we want to make a difference to children and society. But when that difference is devalued, cracks appear.
A Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) starts on just under €29,000 per year after approximately 6 years training. That’s ok money to start on. Except very very few NQTs start on this because the contracts offered are commonly all under full-time hours. It can take a teacher 10 years or more to get a permanent position. No one owes anyone a living, but if we want to have quality teachers, it has to be worth a person’s while to become a teacher.
But when someone does get into teaching – or any other job – they should not be faced with doing the same work as a similar worker, but on another pay scale. It is an affront to a basic human right.
Unequal pay is wrong and the National Parents Council should say so loudly to the government.