TUI chief warns of ‘serious’ FG threat

THE head of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has become the latest senior trade union figure to advise members of the dangers of electing Fine Gael to Government.

TUI general secretary Peter McMenamin has written to the union’s 15,800 members warning them that Fine Gael in power could lead to a number of unwelcome initiatives in education including the introduction of “counter-educational” school league tables.

In the letters, the union warns of “serious threats” which it says are contained on both the party’s website and within its manifesto.

Just as it incurred the wrath of Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary David Begg earlier this week, the statement on the party’s website that Fine Gael “will take on the big vested interests that have contributed to the current crisis — the bankers, the bondholders, the developers and the unions” also angers Mr McMenamin.

In the letter to his members the union head said: “From this Fine Gael believes that we, the unions, have contributed to the current crisis.

“Fine Gael is going to ‘take us on’. They are giving us fair warning now before the election and if we put them into government on February 25 we cannot undo that. We must be warned now.”

He also warned members about the language being used by the party around finding efficiencies in the education system through pay and non-pay.

He said that, when considered alongside the “taking us on” statement, the initiatives “give a very clear message as to the intention of this party.”

“We must recall what the current outgoing Government has done to the pay and conditions of teachers and other workers with no mandate,” he said.

“This party is seeking a mandate for the same and we need to be warned.”

Parts of the Fine Gael manifesto also concern the TUI.

In one section the party says it will improve the system for evaluating schools so that parents have access to more information when choosing a school for their family.

“We will introduce a new system of self-evaluation, requiring all schools to evaluate their own performance year on year and publish information across a wide range of criteria, including extra-curricular activities, special needs education, learning support, music or drama as well as exam performance in an annual school report,” the manifesto states.

Mr McMenamin said that Fine Gael was requiring schools to evaluate their own performance and publish this wide range of criteria all in the annual school report.

“This means school league tables will be introduced and, once introduced, will be there forever,” he said.

“As educators we know that school league tables are counter-educational and reveal nothing about the quality of the school or the quality of the teaching.

“TUI, along with other teacher unions and other education bodies including the Department of Education and Skills, have all opposed the introduction of league tables. This party is threatening to bring them in.”

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