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John Boyle, Secretary General of the INTO, speaking at the annual congress in Derry INTO

'Minister, you need to hit the accelerator, not the brakes': INTO grills Foley on retention crisis

The INTO has said that foreign countries are “taking our teachers and giving them housing”.

THE IRISH NATIONAL Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has accused the government of having a “lacklustre” response to the recruitment and retention crises in the sector.

The organisation’s secretary general John Boyle has called for a special commission to be formed with the aim of creating a plan “before Christmas” to attract teachers who have moved abroad – rather than “another dust-collecting report”.

According to figures by the INTO, there were more than 2,000 long-term vacancies in the sector at the start of the academic year. Meanwhile, it estimates that more than 4,800 Irish teachers are working abroad.

Boyle was speaking at the INTO’s annual congress, which this year was held in Derry, and had Minister Norma Foley in attendance. 

“We need action, not apathy,” he told Minister Foley.

Talks and reports won’t fill empty classrooms.

“We need to help the children navigate our way through school. And the best way to do that is to give them a teacher,” said Boyle.

Enticing teachers from abroad

According to the INTO, other national crises are contributing to the stress on the education system.

“A new campaign is urgently needed to promote teaching in Ireland. Providing affordable housing and childcare near teachers’ workplaces has to be a central component of that campaign.”

“We’ve hammered home the need for a massive teacher training surge up to 2030. Until those graduates arrive, the only solution is enticing teachers back home and keeping new graduates on board.”

The profession, he says, would be made more attractive if mentorship and more professional development training was provided, and a simplification of teachers’ duties were achieved.

“They didn’t choose to become assessment officers, or behavioural analysts, or crowd controllers, or data inputters, or recruitment agents or fundraising event organisers or smart phone police or truancy trackers. They just want to teach.”

The issue of policing phone ownership and usage among children was particularly controversial among teachers, many of whom believe it is the responsibility of parents to monitor their children’s technology.

On investment, the organisation has welcomed some provisions made by the Department, such as increased investment in special education and the in-school pilot counselling scheme.

In the last year, an additional €2 million has been allocated to middle leadership positions in education. However, Boyle says this is only a “drop in the ocean”.

“Our members are overwhelmed, principals are exhausted, schools are struggling, and the supply crisis is worsening,” he said.

Minister, you need to hit the accelerator, not the brakes.

To support leadership in primary schools, the INTO gave its 10-point plan, which asks the government to provide for the appointment of administrative principals in all schools with more than four mainstream classes.

Currently, secondary schools with more than 400 pupils also get a deputy administrative principal. The organisation says the same provision should be made for primary schools of the same size.

Additionally, principals should be supported in job-sharing with teachers from other schools, as it would allow them to “recharge their batteries”.

These were just some of the demands laid out by Boyle at this year’s congress.

He encouraged Minister Foley to be “ruthless at Cabinet”, “otherwise your legacy over the education brief will not be what I know you want it to be”.

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