TEACHERS’ UNIONS HAVE responded to this morning’s media reports which suggested that the Taoiseach has told Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to extend the working week in schools to 40 hours.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) noted that their members already work an average of 43 to 46 hours per week, while the ASTI pointed to this week’s OECD survey which showed Ireland’s second-level teachers spend more time in the classroom than their foreign counterparts.
The Sunday Independent reported that Enda Kenny has told his ministers to increase the working week in schools and hospitals in order to increase productivity across the public sector. Citing a letter sent to Cabinet members, the newspaper said that the Taoiseach wants an extra €1.7 billion in day-to-day savings to be made next year.
Responding to the reports about teachers’ working weeks, a spokesperson for TUI said, “An independent survey carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes in 2010 showed that second level teachers were working between an average of 43 to 46 hours per week.
“This will have grown since as a result of increased administrative burdens and further cutbacks to the education system. In addition, teachers are also now working an additional hour per week as part of the Public Service Agreement.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the secondary-level teachers’ union, the ASTI. General Secretary Pat King said,”Irish second-level teachers spend 735 hours per annum in their classrooms compared to the OECD average of approximately 681 hours. Teaching is a frontline service and the most valuable work that teachers do is done in the classroom.”
“The amount of administrative and legal duties which teachers and schools are required to carry out has increased significantly over the past decade. This has happened at a time when resources have been stripped from schools including loss of classroom teachers, loss of specialist teachers, and loss of in-school management posts such as year heads,” he added. “Schools have also lost funding and every teacher is doing more with less resources. The preservation of teaching time remains a priority for schools and under the Croke Park Agreement teachers at primary and second-level are delivering almost two million extra working hours per annum.”
King also noted the number of volunteer hours that teachers put in through extra-curricular activities.
Meanwhile, talks continue at the Labour Relations Commission this weekend between the HSE and consultants. The deadline to reach agreement looms this evening. RTÉ reports that the HSE is determined to cut the overall €475 million-a-year consultants’ pay bill despite consultants’ insistence that they have delivered significant flexibility.