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Eduction Minister Norma Foley addressing the INTO Annual Congress in Killarney. Minister Norma Foley
INTO

Teaching union calls for reduced class sizes and action to address 'unhealthy work-life balance'

Education Minister Norma Foley said that class sizes are ‘now at an historic low’.

THE IRISH NATIONAL Teachers’ Organisation has called for reduced class sizes, a “general increase in salaries for teachers, as well as “urgent action” to address the “unhealthy work-life balance” in the profession.

The INTO is currently holding it’s Annual Congress in Killarney, which was address by Education Minister Norma Foley earlier this morning.

It is seeking a “general increase in salaries for teachers to protect their incomes from rising living costs”.

The organisation is also calling for a two-point reduction in average class sizes in each of the next two budgets.

INTO president John Driscoll said the organisation has ben working “tirelessly to address Ireland’s supersized classes” which he described as a “national shame”.

Driscoll added that class sizes in Ireland places the country at the “bottom of the EU league tables”.

While he welcomed “efforts to secure a one-point reduction in each of the last three years”, he called for the government to be “far more ambitious”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Education Minister Norma Foley said that she “acknowledges that there are challenges in education”.

However, in relation to class sizes, she said: “I think it’s quite remarkable to note that over the past three budgets over which I have presided, unprecedented in the history of education, we have successfully reduced the pupil teacher ratio to 23 to one.”

She added that class sizes are “now at an historic low”.

The INTO is also calling for action to “ease excessive workload burden”.

Earlier this year, the INTO published a report that found nine in 10 primary teachers are struggling with their workload, while principals work an additional 600 hours a year outside school time.

The INTO has also called for full substitute cover for approved teacher absences.

Such absences include family illness leave, self-certified sick leave and Extra Personal Vacation days, for all primary and special schools.

While the INTO welcomed the establishment of the teacher supply panel scheme, it has called for the scheme to be expanded to cover all primary schools.

For the current school year, there are 151 supply panels currently covering 2,850 schools with 610 teaching posts allocated.

Speaking on the News at One, Minister Foley said she is “reviewing the panel system, streamlining them to make them more effective and attractive”.

Supply panels are intended to ensure there is a ready supply of substitute teachers to primary schools in their local area.

However, over 60% of posts on teacher supply panels in Dublin are vacant.

Minister Foley noted that there is a “significant challenge in Dublin” and added: “We are currently looking at how we can support the panels in Dublin change or tweak or add new incentives to those panels.”

Each panel serves a cluster of schools, and Minister Foley said the Department has reduced the size of clusters in Dublin from five schools to two or three schools.

She added that the Department is “open and flexible to look at a whole variety of measures”.

Minister Foley also said that “teaching remains a very stable profession” and noted that “over the last two years we have seen almost a 20% increase in terms of application by the CAO for some teaching-training positions”.

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