A review of the workload that has brought thousands of primary school principals to breaking point is urgently needed, their union claims.
The mountain of paperwork needed for every hour of special needs teaching or care, increased focus on literacy and numeracy, and a range of other initiatives are just some factors behind the pressures that the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation says are making a Government review necessary.
The principals of around two thirds of the country’s 3,300 primary schools are full-time teachers as well as being in charge of day-to-day management.
However, INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the salaries they get do not reflect the increasing leadership, administrative and management responsibilities that have to be undertaken along with a full-time teaching responsibility. Primary principals are paid allowances that depend on school size in addition to their teaching salary, ranging from €9,310 in a school of five teachers or less to over €25,000 in the small proportion of schools with more than 26 staff.
“Government can no longer adopt a Pontius Pilate approach. A review body is needed as a matter of urgency,” she said.
Ms Nunan said the extreme workload pressures and inability to cope being reported by increasing number of principals are not just impacting them, but are also compromising the education system. She said the pressures come from increased accountability, more difficult human resource management, and diminishing resources, along with more administrative and managerial tasks.
“At the same time, principals are being urged to focus more on leading school improvement initiatives in literacy and numeracy, tackling bullying and improving attendance at school,” she said.
With no understanding of the limited time, and no support or back-up available for these duties, said Ms Nunan, a review body must be set up to examine and report on key actions. She said it must examine the role of school boards, the financing of primary schools, the impact of new legislation on schools, and written policies required for compliance purposes.
Meanwhile, an official watchdog is being handed ramped up powers to deal with bad teachers.
Tweaks to existing laws will allow the Teaching Council, which regulates the profession, to effectively strike off teachers who are underperforming or found guilty of misconduct.
Education minister Ruairí Quinn said the new powers will put teaching on a par with other regulated professions.
“The vast majority of teachers in our classrooms perform well,” said Mr Quinn. “But, for the small minority who do not, I believe that the Teaching Council will now have at its disposal the right tools to deal with cases of serious misconduct and to improve and assist poorly performing teachers.”
The planned law changes, which have to be rubber-stamped by the Oireachtas, will enable the teaching watchdog to impose sanctions even if a teacher is not deemed “unfit to teach”.
The new powers will also allow the Teaching Council to investigate allegations from parents of misconduct and under-performance in schools.
Teachers will be able to appeal any decisions in the High Court.
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