JobBridge for Qualified Teachers: Important Survey

We have been working on a JobBridge for Qualified Teachers survey over the past few weeks, and have it ready for you now.

Here it is


Please complete it and share it with all of your friends and contacts.

Thank you very much.

We will share our findings with you in a few weeks, when the survey closes.


Thank you also to everyone who completed our short Special Needs Survey


We have had an excellent response rate (over 520 so far) and more coming in every day. If you have not completed it, please do so now.

We will close that survey in about one more week and post the results here for you to see.

In the meantime, please keep sharing both surveys far and wide.

Thank you.




The days of a teacher dictating from his/her desk are long since gone. It is an impossibility to teach and not come into close one-to-one contact with our children. Full stop. And that’s before we consider that there will be large congregations of adults arriving with those children and collecting them.

We are expected to put ourselves into harm’s way without a thought to consequences for ourselves and our families or the children and their families. No other workforce or profession is expected to interact closely with others without masks, face shields, gloves, lack of cleaning staff or provision.

Some of the comments made in this regard were:

“Give specific guidance in relation to PPE, distancing, hygiene procedures. Make it mandatory to wear masks in the vicinity of the school building. Provide funds for duty cleaners to wipe down desks, door handles, surfaces which have been touched by adults or children. Stop believing in the myth that children don’t transmit COVID. If that were the case, they would never have been stopped from hugging their grandparents. Get real.”

“…currently what I’ve heard from my principal is “new normal”, “no social distancing” and that a doctor’s note will be required if we require a mask. I let them know that this attitude stigmatises mask-wearing and that everyone has a right to protect their health and a responsibility to those around them. They are keeping the wording in the policy. The recklessness of sending people into classrooms with no screens, PPE or distancing is unacceptable and it’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be leaving the profession if I feel that I’ll be putting myself and my family at risk. Obviously, it will be a huge disappointment; I absolutely adore my job, helping the children I teach to overcome immense difficulties. I am awaiting responses for several interviews done recently and I am desperately hoping I’ll find work elsewhere.”

“There will be 31 children in our 6th class. 8 will fit in the classroom with 2m social distancing. You are putting lives at risk. It is not fair! Medical staff have full PPE, teachers have none. This is absolutely unbelievable that full re-opening without masks/ PPE is even being considered. I’m in disbelief. There will be 450 people in our building. No social distancing, no masks. This is insane. Does my life, or my children’s lives matter less? If those 31 children in our 6th class wanted to Take a bus for 10 min, they’d have to wear face coverings and stay distanced. there can’t be more than 10 of them in a house even for 10 min. But we can have 31 in a classroom for 5.5 hours. How is that ok? How is it even being considered?!!! If we are forced to work in those conditions, it won’t be for long as we will get sick. I hope too many of us don’t die.”

“I work in a SEN school with 100 pupils and total staff of approx. 60 Inc. auxiliary staff. My students need support around personal care and challenging behaviour. I have been working in my school for July programme and it is IMPOSSIBLE to social distance and ensure proper hand hygiene with students when all 6 are in plus 3 SNA’s. SNA’s are fantastic and supporting hygiene in students, but we have no PPE e.g. clear visors when sitting right beside a student to help feed them, toilet/change clothing let alone physically supporting students in their learning.”

“Put together a team from where I don’t care but there are plenty of able bodied and trainable professionals that could be re-redeployed to review on site and order everything I’m talking PPE, storage of same, wall mounted sanitisers, the drip trays for same, erect them all where they deem they are needed, but bins, gloves bin liners, and give enough stock until new year… no questions asked, give plexiglass protection afforded people in the shops and banks and do this for the 3,300 schools in Ireland.”

“Ensure that every single child and staff member has access to hot water- in my school, we spent most of last year with access to no water after 12 o clock each day and were unable to flush toilets, wash hands etc. Zoos are cleaner.”

Teachers spend their own money on school supplies on a regular basis, due to severe underfunding of schools for decades.

Replies to question 11 indicate that respondents are buying some of their own safety supplies now too, with almost 70% replying that they have spent their own money on PPE, hand sanitiser or other safety items.

This result ties in with Question 10, which displayed a serious lack of trust in the DES to make adequate provision for their safety.

Despite purchasing some of their own safety items, almost 94% of respondents (5,705) answered that the DES should provide school staff with face visors and masks.

This result goes against recent DES statements for the 2020 summer provision programmes that masks were not required for school staff, because they possibly hindered communication. However, face shields / visors might be suitable.

International experience indicates that face shields on their own are not sufficient to guard against COVID-19. For example, in a recent outbreak in Graübunden, in Switzerland (July 2020), face shields without masks were found to have been the common denominator in infections. There was not a single infection among employees with a mask.  The cantonal health authorities in Graübunden said plastic face shields didn’t work. The Federal Office of Public Health concurs, saying it too has found increased infections among people who wear face shields… “The visors do not serve as an alternative to hygiene masks. Visors can be worn with masks to further enhance your own protection,” spokesman Yann Hulmann stated. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/07/16/plastic-visors-arent-safe-should-worn-masks-say-swiss/

A team of scientists in the University of Iowa is urging the adoption of face masks and shields and goggles: https://nationalpost.com/news/what-to-wear-first-face-masks-now-goggles-and-shields-experts-weigh-in-on-the-best-covid-19-protection

Respondents to this survey clearly agree with scientific findings, not with the DES claim that masks are not necessary for school staff to wear.

It would appear from the data gathered that respondents do not agree with the DES advice that PPE is unnecessary unless perhaps for SNAs when providing intimate care needs.

Over 87.4% (5,299) replied that the DES should provide school staff with PPE.

The vast majority of respondents, 4,446 (73.3%) also want the DES to provide schools with Perspex screens, as happens in shops.

It is clearly obvious from these responses that respondents to this survey see a need for face masks, face visors, PPE and Perspex screens. Currently, neither school staff nor parents have any information as to whether or not they will be provided.

Respondents shared that 10.3% of their school buildings are over one hundred years old. Just imagine that. A further 30.5% are over fifty years old. When you have a situation where over 50% of our building stock in Ireland is over fifty years old you are going to have problems with attaining high levels of sanitation especially since the government stance for decades has been to fix things through emergency works. Many of our schools are being held together by ‘sticking plasters’. Successive governments’ school replacement programme is virtually non-existent. The result of this blinkered view is coming home to roost and it is our children and teachers who are paying the price. 

2,803 (46.1%) of respondents stated that they do not have a sink in their classroom in 2020. Nearly half of the classrooms have no hand washing facilities.

How can thirty plus children and staff wash their hands frequently unless classrooms have sinks (plural)?

Hand hygiene is the corner stone of our fight against COVID-19. How can teachers be expected to teach while at the same time supervise that each individual child washes their hands properly, without a sink? Where are the sinks? In a communal bathroom, outside of the classroom? Imagine the time wasted walking a class of 30+ children up and down the corridor multiple times a day to wash their hands? Are we expected to use a basin of cold water at the back of the room for thirty individuals? Imagine trying to organise that and teach at the same time…

4,939 (81.4%) of respondents do not have hot water in their classroom in 2020.

While nearly half of classrooms have no hand washing facilities, of those who do over 60% have only cold water taps to use.

Some commentators say that hot water is not necessary when washing hands. However, other medical experts say that hands should be clean before using sanitiser.

Anyone who has ever washed their hands or washed their children’s hands knows that using cold water doesn’t really clean your hands.



This section includes analysis around the need for extra teachers, substitute teachers, SNAs and cleaners; the concern that SET may be mis-used as subs; class size etc…

Respondents voiced the serious concerns they have about staffing issues throughout the survey and in the additional comments they made to question 40. Respondents are extremely concerned about our very large class sizes in Ireland – the highest in the entire EU. They are seriously worried, with cause, that if they become ill or are mandated to self-isolate, that a substitute teacher will not be available to cover their absence. They are very concerned that Special Education teachers (SET) will be misused as substitute teachers if a sub cannot be found. Respondents also felt that substitute Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) will be required to help teachers with children’s hygiene care needs. Much-needed extra cleaners not being funded by the DES was another big concern here.

Supply Panels of substitute teachers will not be sufficient. Even if Supply Panels are etablished nationwide, where are the teachers going to come from to fill them? Before the pandemic, we already had a massive teacher supply crisis. The DES need to look at other substitute options, for example 4th year BEds or 2nd year PMEs. Even this will not be enough.

There were an overwhelming number of extra comments (hundreds of pages) which demonstrates how seriously respondents are taking school re-opening. Respondents recognised that extra staffing is a vital requirement in order for schools to reopen.

Here is a small sample of comments from respondents related to this section on staffing:

“I would tackle substitution for once and for all. We have suffered a Teacher-Supply Crisis for years now. No Minister dealt with it.”

“I would reduce class sizes and ask teachers like myself who have opted out of supervision & substitution to opt back in and pay us properly.”

“Schools are a breeding ground for germs and will be no different for this virus. The current cleaning of schools is currently underfunded and will be inadequate to maintain the level of cleaning required for returning. Cleaning budget and additional cleaners should be employed. SET team roles must be protected and not used as substitution roles to cover staff.”

“Open schools fully, increase SNA no so that at least 2 adults are in each room, temp appointment to cover substitution, random daily temp checks for staff and pupils, mandatory 2 week isolation for staff or pupil who travels abroad, or lives with someone who travels abroad, COVID payment for staff who are compromised and need time off work, extra funding for cleaning, PPE etc.”

“Give all schools an ex quota teacher to cover substitutions, principal release days (needs to be hugely increased) and look after distance learning for pupils that may not return due to medical conditions. Bigger schools may require more than 1 etc. Reduce the class sizes to reflect societal norms re social distancing. This may mean a morning and evening session.”

“Available substitute teachers & SNAs to cover the inevitable absences. A system needs to be set up for this e.g. a set of subs who are paid by the DES & allocated to a group of schools and on call as needed. Children with additional needs cannot be impacted by the lack of available subs to cover the inevitable increase is teacher absences; SET support simply cannot be taken from the neediest children in our schools. Schools with less than a full time SET teacher should be given a full time SET post to reduce the chances of spreading the virus between schools.”

“Teaching principals need to be made administrative principals as there is no way they can manage all that needs to be done while also carrying out teaching duties.”

“Clear comprehensive Standard Return to School Procedures for all schools. The same actions need to be taken in all schools in the same circumstances e.g. if a teacher is sick and no sub is available the class needs to be sent home. The reality is that teachers and SNAs are very eager to return to schools, they miss the children whose care and well-being is their number 1 priority. The work we do in schools is vital and we want to do so safely & in line with the HSE & WHO procedures. They want to return, they’re keen to prepare & the procedures for this needs to come very soon, not at the last minute!”

“Provide additional teachers and SNAs. 1 teacher for every 8 classes. Where shared SET & base school has 18 hours, make it a full SET role for this year. Shared SET should not be happening. Provide additional ICT funding for laptops to give to families on loan. Provide a minimum of one admin day per week for teaching principals. All DPs for 20/21 in schools of 16 teachers to be admin DPs. Appoint an additional HSCL in DEIS schools for 20/21. They will need it. Provide a telephone triage service to deal with staff calling in sick (advising them of next steps). Those with asthma regularly have a cough; runny noses come with hay fever.”

“Increase staffing – teachers and SNAs and increase funding for payment for extra hours for school secretaries and caretakers. Also create a new position of Classroom Assistant and assign one to each class. And pay them adequately. Issue advice on whether SET and SNAs can move from classroom to classroom. (This is obviously going to cause massive problems. I don’t think there’s a school in the country that has an adequate allocation of SNAs so it will be exceedingly difficult if SNAs cannot move from room to room.) If there is to be no or limited movement of staff between classrooms how will this affect the principal? Can he/she not visit classrooms?”

“Provide FULL safety measures as described in this survey. Hire additional teachers as subs and SNAs to take temperatures, supervise isolation rooms, help with pupil hygiene and cleaners to clean throughout the day. Provide all necessary funding.”

“Also, staff are entitled to lunch break. Some schools are proposing that staff supervise students in rooms during lunch to prevent socialising. Teachers don’t get a break. If extra supervision is an expectation there should be some leeway with CP hours this year. It cannot be both ways.”

“We need more hands-on deck, so DES should be considering more SNAs or subs, or maybe putting college students to use by linking them with schools instead of placement or alongside placement. My school is really big and I’m very aware that it probably won’t be cleaned well enough.”

“Provide substitute teachers and SNAs for all absences. Set up teacher supply panels around the country for this. Provide nationwide policies for dealing with sick staff and pupils so there is no animosity over what management can or cannot do in the event of staff or pupils appearing unwell.”

A very large number of respondents (5.817 / 95.8%) expressed that they are concerned that DES will not plan for adequate substitute teachers to cover teacher absences.

Realistically, this is not an unexpected response. The DES has presided over a Teacher Supply Crisis for several years now, despite teacher and substitute shortages being clearly forecast by the Teaching Council “Striking the Balance” (2015) paper, finally published by the DES in June 2017.

Plans to mitigate Teacher Supply problems have included possibly allowing job-sharing teachers to sub, but the DES have failed to arrange for this year after year. This simple example does not point to the DES taking the Teacher Supply crisis seriously.

With no inspiration to be gleaned from interim guidelines from the DES on re-opening of our schools, and just five weeks to go before the end of summer 2020, something must be done urgently by the DES to ensure that each school has ample substitute teacher availability.

Nearly nine out of every ten who responded to this survey think that children diagnosed with a Special Educational Need (SEN) might have their Special Education Teacher (SET) taken away from them. Respondents fear this because they worry that the DES will not hire enough substitute teachers and the SET will be re-allocated within schools as sort of flying substitute teachers, in an attempt to plug gaps that will occur due to staff being sick or having to self-isolate by mandate. COVID-19 is not a short-term situation, therefore children who are most in need are in severe danger of having their SET supports denied to them over a long period of time. Blame for this serious loss must be laid at the door of Government, if they fail to provide ample, extra substitute teachers to each school. They have had months to put the proper alternatives in place. The DES must start the Garda vetting process to hire many substitute teachers to be in time for September 2020.

97% of respondents think that schools will need to hire temporary substitute teachers to ensure that every child has a teacher, even teacher absences due to COVID-19. Over 45% (2,738) advise that each school should have an extra temporary teachers for every 8 current teachers, while 32% (1,942) responded that two extra temporary teachers will be needed per every 12 current teachers.

As things stand, according to Department figures, 17% of all substitutable absences are not being covered in schools. This is due to two main reasons:

1.       The DES will not allow schools to hire a substitute teacher for a great many absences.

2.       Principals find it nigh on impossible to find a substitute teacher, due to the 2011 cuts to pay and conditions of new entrants. Thousands of teachers now teach abroad.

Add COVID-19 to the normal difficult situation and it is obvious to respondents that if the DES do not fund extra teachers, we will have a total system collapse. If a teacher is absent due to illness or mandated self-isolation, then the children will not have a teacher. The class cannot be split due to COVID-19, as often happens currently when DES do not allow a substitute to be hired.

Principals are already at their wits ends trying to make do with insufficient levels of staffing on a day to day basis. If the DES refuse to hire additional teaching staff, or if additional sanctioned teaching staff cannot be accessed, will children have to be sent home if their teacher is sick?

Over 81% (4,913) or four out of every five respondents replied that additional Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) will be required in schools this school year. Even leaving out the additional emotional support many of our children will require returning to school, there is the additional requirement for constant hand sanitation and maintaining social distancing as much as possible. Teachers cannot be in two places at the one time. They cannot be expected to teach a class while at the same time observing and ensuring that children maintain high hygiene levels, especially with regard to toileting and other hygiene care needs. Additional SNAs are vital to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread like wildfire within our schools and wider school communities.

97.5% (5,924) of respondents are clear that schools will not be able to operate without the provision of additional fulltime cleaning staff. At the moment, schools are lucky indeed if they can employ cleaners for two hours a day, due to the current, paltry DES funding. HSE and NPHET advice is that all areas must be fully sanitised every two hours at a minimum. If we have children back in school, then there would only be a very narrow window of opportunity to sanitise every surface that they come into contact with. This will be an impossibility without full-time cleaners sanitising each room and bathroom on rotation throughout the school day.


Representation and Trust

There is no doubt that teachers have felt undervalued and disrespected by many of the actions of the DES over the months of school closure.  In addition, huge numbers of teachers have felt that we have not been adequately consulted or had our views represented by our unions.

In recent months in particular there has been a raft of media coverage that has blamed teachers for doubts about schools re-opening.  Teachers and principals on the other hand have only found out developments through the media.  And we remain just as much in the dark as everyone else.

Teachers, it is clear, want to return to school, we want schools opened. But we want that to happen safely.  And we would like the DES to treat us and other school staff with respect.

VFT hope that our unions will take cognisance of the huge number of respondents who feel inadequately consulted and represented and take steps to address this.

Some of the comments made in this regard were

“…Stop putting the parental concern for childcare above the Health & Safety of school staff, teachers & students. Schools must adhere to Health Guidelines and not cave to the pressure of parent groups & the Media. Also, the DES needs to stop leaking stories before consultation with teacher unions take place….”

“…Inform teachers and managers about Dept, not leaks to media. Show respect and address the genuine concerns of staff. Telling the media that she is very busy just doesn’t wash and none of the issues regarding a return to school have been adequately addresses by what the nation has seen as an unfit for purpose Dept….”

“…Communicate with teachers and principals. Involve them in the planning process and listen to their concerns. We all want to best for every single child in our class. We don’t want to send them home and put their families at risk. We also want them to feel safe. Children won’t feel safe unless teachers know what is happening….”

“…Please make sure it’s safe; safe like the way other workplaces/workers (hairdressers, shopkeepers etc) have been taken protected. The media have made a joke about our concerns and professional diligence. We just want the same safety measures as other professions??? It’s not a big ask. I want to go back to work…. but I want to be safe….”

“…Consult teachers which is something none of them seem interested in doing. I would also notify the media that it is NOT teachers that make those top decisions and actually stick up for our profession. I pay the teaching council to uphold the dignity of my profession and they haven’t written an article in defence to the horrendous backlash we have been given for months….”

Worryingly, over 4 out of every 5 respondents – 5,082 people – feel that their health has not been considered in the arrangements made thus far for the re-opening of schools. This would indicate a lack of trust among teachers that arrangements for re-opening will consider the health implications for teachers.  No other sector of the economy or society has re-opened ‘as normal’ but the narrative and discussion about school re-opening has constantly been parsed with ‘as normal’.  There is a huge concern among teachers that corners will be cut with regard to adequately protecting teachers’ health in order to fulfil this ambition of an ‘as normal’ re-opening of schools.

It is concerning that 1 in 3 respondents – 2,005 people – said that they would not feel comfortable sharing health concerns they might have about returning to school.  It is important – for both the physical and mental health of all concerned – that teachers are in a position to divulge such information to their principal and Board of Management, and that they feel it will be acted on and they will be protected.

The figure here speaks for itself.  Over 93% of respondents feel that DES preparations for school re-opening are not good enough.  A fully-costed and resourced plan should have been in place several months ago to allow principals and teachers to plan for September re-opening. The fact that this is still not in place at the end of July is a source of huge concern and mental health stresses to many teachers. 

144 (2.4 %) of respondents shared that they feel very well represented by their Union regarding school re-opening and 974 (16.1%) felt well represented.

However, well over 55% (3,366) felt that their Union’s representation is not good enough and 1,570 (25.9%) do not feel represented at all. Combining both of those gives an astonishing 81.5% (4,936) of those surveyed who are not satisfied with their Union’s representation.

This should be of serious concern to Teacher Unions in Ireland.

This dissatisfaction continues in regard to consultation, with 92.5% (5,591) of respondents stating that they do not feel they have been adequately consulted by their Union Rep.

It is very clear from the replies to this question that respondents do not trust the DES to make adequate provisions for their safety when schools re-open.

5,199 (86%) replied that, in their opinion, DES will NOT make adequate safety provisions.

Again, virtually all respondents do not believe that the Department will provide adequate funding to re-open safely. This is based on our experience that they have not adequately funded our day to day running costs for decades. The fact that all schools have to run fund raisers constantly to keep their heads above water is testament to that. Current advice for the summer programmes is that schools should buy necessary equipment and materials and the department will reimburse. Our sad experience with the Department leads us to believe that we will be stuck with the additional costs vital to re-opening. Unfortunately, we doubt we’ll be proven wrong.


Social Distancing

A major concern for teachers returning to school buildings is “social distancing”.  Our class sizes are the largest in the EU and this maltreatment of our nation’s children is now coming home to roost.  Resources have to be put in place to ensure our pupils and our teachers can remain at a safe distance from each other. 

Here are some of the comments made:

“Make a clear, detailed plan based on evidence. Give clear instructions to schools so they can start preparing and make necessary adaptations for next month. My understanding is that social distancing is key so we would need to stagger class groups to allow for social distancing. I am concerned at the lack of evidence that children are any less likely to contract and spread the virus than any other age group. There is evidence that they aren’t as affected when they contract it but I haven’t come across evidence to suggest they have any immunity to contracting and spreading it. I worry that a relaxed approach will cause a surge of cases in the community. It concerns me that there is much talk of a full re-opening without examples of countries that have returned to normal schooling yet. Please don’t let us be the test run. We want to open in a safe and sustainable way without having to reclose or send the whole country back into lockdown.”

“Put all safety measures in place: 2m social distancing for all; perspex screens; masks & visors & PPE; small groups two school sessions a day; give every school an extra temporary teacher and SNA; hire 4th year B.Ed.s and 2nd year PMEs as subs at least one in each school); hire extra full time cleaners to clean between sessions; give school funds upfront to buy necessary materials & resources; provide devices to all pupils & free WiFi if/when we go back to distance learning; DO NOT use Special Ed Teachers as subs that would be terrible on our most needy pupils; support Principals; Make it clear to all that anyone with symptoms staff or child MUST stay at home; provide extra sinks; give extra sick leave; allow health-compromised staff to work from home. Finally, TRUST TEACHERS and help them to help our children.”

“Issue clear guidelines re social distancing based on science and not just the ‘Junior Infants to 2nd class children can all go in and we’ll all hope for the best’ nonsense issued recently. This offers no protection to the adults in the school. Issue clear guidelines to parents (as Jacinda Ardern did) re expected behaviours – not gathering at drop off and collection times, not sending children to school when sick etc Issue clear guidelines as to what school management should do if there are not enough staff able to attend work on any given day.”

Almost 1 in 5 of the respondents – 1,206 people – stated that they have an underlying health condition.  In terms of re-opening schools, these teachers need reassurance that they will not be placed in a situation which jeopardises their health.

Just under 30% of respondents – 1,808 people – live with someone who has an underlying health condition. Many of these teachers – similar to other workers – care for elderly parents and/or have children or partners with underlying health conditions. They have had to juggle caring duties with providing distance teaching and learning since the middle of March, and they now need reassurance that they will not be placing the health of their family member(s) in jeopardy by a return to school which does not have all the necessary safety precautions in place.

Less than 1 in 5 respondents are currently feeling ‘happy and safe to return’ to school. A massive 4,975 people – 81.8% – declared that they are either worried or feel unsafe to return. Teachers need to be reassured that their concerns about health, social distancing, cleaning, provision of sub cover etc… are going to be adequately dealt with before the re-opening of schools.

This is where Ireland’s large class sizes come back to haunt us. They are the largest in Europe. The average class size in Europe is twenty children. Only one in six teachers said that they would be in direct contact with twenty children or fewer each day. Over one in three said that they would be in direct teaching contact with over double that. Even a pod system would have teachers in direct contact with above the EU class size average each day. All it takes is for one asymptomatic child or staff member to unknowingly spread COVID-19 exponentially throughout a community in situations like this.

Education, Uncategorized

Mental Health/Wellbeing of Teachers

Teaching has become a multifaceted profession over the past ten years with many courses being undertaken to upskill in areas such as social development, anxiety, educational/behavioural disorders and technology.  These additional areas added to an already over-burdened workload, and have greatly affected the mental health of teachers as proven by the gradual increase in the number of calls to “Inspire Workplaces Services”.  Our survey results point to the fact that teachers’ mental health has also been affected by the enforced school building closures on 12th March 2020, as well as anxiety surrounding re-opening in the coming weeks.  The reasons for this additional anxiety are also expressed in many additional comments to question 40, for example:

“Honestly I have no idea. I really want to go back to normal classes but my husband is 63 and has respiratory issues so I’m afraid for his health. I have 31 students in my room for LC English and they are packed in: my tables are for five in groups only, as single tables don’t actually fit into the room. We have an old building and as a voluntary school find it hard to make ends meet as it is – how we can afford PPE or extra cleaners is totally beyond me. I found the work from March to end of May almost broke me – I can’t bear the thought of doing online classes again in September. I have four years to go before I am 57 and able to retire on the 35/55 scheme – honestly- if I could go this year I would. I am terrified at what’s to come in September.”

“The DES need to produce a student friendly COVID19 awareness and education resource pack for use in wellbeing classes.  More funding is needed for counselling in schools to address the emotional ramifications of the pandemic for both pupils and staff. Sincere consideration given to the wellbeing of teachers.  Stop leaking everything to the press for starters because it is creating a negative hysteria around the issue”

The enforced closure of school buildings on Thursday 12th March 2020 has led to a number of opinion pieces being published across Irish media platforms which have generally undermined the work undertaken by teachers during this time. In the last two months in particular, there has been a lot of commentary which has sought to blame teachers for the lack of a clear plan for the re-opening of schools. Teachers asking for schools to re-open safely has been portrayed as being obstructive.  Concerns over the lack of a clear plan for safe re-opening aligned with high levels of criticism of teachers in the media has affected 67% of respondents’ mental welfare, at a time when our national population is in a heightened state of stress and concern about safety.

When under attack, teachers naturally turn to our unions to defend us. Alarmingly over 91% of respondents – the people who pay monthly union subs – feel dissatisfied with the manner in which our unions responded to media attacks on teachers.  The unions’ media strategy appears to have been to present to the public as being supportive and reasonable in their ongoing talks with the DES.  However, this left teachers feeling exposed and with nowhere to turn to on a national level for public support.

This response directly links to the results of Question 35.  Extensive media coverage and commentary have blamed teachers for the lack of a plan for the re-opening of schools. Teachers are anxious to re-open schools as soon as is possible to do so safely, but the DES need to communicate with schools, which are exactly as they were on March 12th, with no guidance yet available.

Our nation’s teachers have spoken on the radio and posted on social media about how members of their own families have bought into the media driven narrative of teachers being responsible for schools being closed.  The education and mental well-being of our nation’s children is an emotive topic and justifiably so. Teachers have always put children’s interests at the heart of everything we do. That is why we want to see schools open safely. However, as a result of the manner in which our concerns have been portrayed, 79% of respondents have suffered abuse for being a member of the teaching profession during these times.


Return to School Protocols

There is a huge variety of different schools – small and large, urban and rural, modern and not-so-modern (putting it politely), primary and post-primary…. This means that there is no ‘One Size Fits all’ protocol that will fit all scenarios.  However, just as government, employers and the ICTU agreed an overall protocol for businesses in general which has then been adapted for the various sectors, a similar approach is needed for schools.  This means that we need certain agreed bottom lines that no school can deviate from. 

All staff will have to fill out a Return to Work declaration stating that they have no COVID symptoms. There should be a similar declaration to be signed by all parents before their child can return to school.

There has to be a very clear guideline that nobody -teacher or pupil – can come to school if they suspect they may possibly have symptoms.  In this context, school staff should have immediate access to testing with same-day results if they suspect they may have symptoms.

Some of the comments made by survey respondents in this regard included

 “…Schools need to be given a clear set of guidance on how to open their school safely. Schools need to practice and rehearse what these guidelines will look like in practice. All schools should be required to follow these guidelines as much as possible. It’s important that there is a sense of unity among all schools regarding homework, school uniforms, lunches etc ….”

“…Produce adequate procedures that relate directly to schools as a distinct workplace (current guidelines are not applicable to schools in my opinion) including what happens to a school or class if there is a case of COVID 19 or a suspected case of COVID 19. In short, provide comprehensive guidelines for schools for all eventualities, a flow chart of scenarios of sorts.”

“…Provide schools with a definitive plan – clearly outlined basic protocols and details that all schools must follow. Do not leave it general and open enough for individual schools to have to interpret – if this happens individual schools will be pitted against each other and we will have some schools who act completely out of line and put all others at risk!…”

“…There must be a nationwide policy that if students arrive in school with cold like symptoms they must be sent home. Again procedures need to be in place for this as some parents are notorious for sending students to school when ill. If there are policies for all schools it will be easier for individual schools….”

“…The same public health guidelines as for the general public must apply in schools. Teachers should be provided with masks and visors NOT a budget to purchase these with. They need to be bulk bought to get value for money and ensure they are available prior to schools opening. Teaching principals need an additional temporary teacher to take on their teaching duties so that they can focus on issues arising from COVID. Quick testing needs to be put in place for children and school staff with suspected COVID….”

74% (4,472) of respondents disagree with the DES disregarding HSE social distancing guidelines:  This is stark: ¾ of respondents understand that social distancing is vital for a safe re-opening of our schools.

Teachers (and all school staff) are legally entitled to a safe place in which to work, which must include social distancing during this Pandemic.

This study from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in South Korea found that infection spread further within the home, where families were less likely to practice social distancing, and more likely to spread COVID-19 at home as a result. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1315_article

“… Given the high infection rate within families, personal protective measures should be used at home to reduce the risk for transmission…”

If social distancing is vital at home, it is absolutely essential at school.

Guidelines and plans for re-opening schools need to address this issue critically, given the short period of time remaining for extensive preparation and planning for re-opening.

4,135 (68%) of respondents are in favour of checking staff temperatures each morning. While such checks may not identify all COVID-19 cases, it is one of a range of possible mitigating actions open to schools.

School staff have traditionally presented for work despite being ill, knowing that the DES would not provide for substitution in many cases, or that substitute teachers are nigh on impossible to source, (due to pay inequality, non-payment of allowances for upskilling, and general decline in terms and conditions since 2011). However, for the coming school year, school staff will be mandated to stay at home if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms.

Temperature checks is one way of ensuring that staff don’t unwittingly (and unwillingly) put others at risk, when teachers and other school staff are compromised by unexpected symptoms.

4,211 (69.2%) of respondents think school-staff should be given a free, priority COVID-19 test before they return to school in September? A further 1,236 (20.3%) replied that it could be a good idea. 10.4% answered that it should not happen. The vast majority responded that it would advisable.

Such testing would take time and therefore, if it is undertaken, it should start soon. It may not identify all COVID-19 active spreaders as the test is not 100% reliable dependent on timing, and what subsequent contacts might bring to a staff-member, but it is one route to the safest possible re-opening of our schools. (Along with a myriad of other necessary safety measures).

School staff are very dedicated to optimum attendance as statistics uphold. A COVID-19 test for school staff would provide assurance to schools, parents and children that every possible action was taken by management before children re-enter school buildings.

Building on question 17, 56.7% of respondents (3,450) said yes, school staff should be given a free, priority COVID-19 test in school every week, like care home staff receive. A further 1,370 (28.6%) replied that it might be a good action to take. 14.8% (899) did not think it should happen.

Due to the fact that schools have no control over the contact chains of staff members outside of the school building, to have such weekly testing in place could alleviate the possibility of super-spreading of COVID-19 within the school and the wider school communities. (And other communities in which school staff live).

It would provide worried parents with some assurance that schools are constantly monitoring the environment children enter daily, for best protection of their children, and to avoid a repeat of the sad events in care homes around the country.

School staff would also have the assurance that all measures are being taken by Government to assure their safety in the workplace, which also means increased safety for themselves and their families, many of whom could have underlying health conditions.

61.9% (3,757) agreed that pupils should also be given a free, priority COVID-19 test before they return to school in September. An additional 22.6% (1.370) felt that it could be a good thing to do.

It would seem wise to test both staff and pupils, especially given that many children will have returned from travel abroad or from other areas nationally, which may subsequently emerge as COVID-19 cluster locations.

Parents would be likely to welcome such tests, knowing that their children may be susceptible to infection from travel histories of other children in their classes, which will be beyond their capacity to address.

However, it might be quite traumatic for children, particularly the younger age-groups and children with SEN, as the test is quite uncomfortable. This is possibly reflected in 15.6% (947) of respondents who disagreed with testing children prior to school re-opening.

73.1% (4,447) of respondents agreed that pupils should have their temperatures checked every morning before entering the school building, with 15.8% (964) more stating that it might be a good thing to do. 11.1% (674) disagreed with such a measure, possibly due to the fact that schools are short-staffed and may not have a staff member available to do such testing.

Just like testing school staff, temperature-taking might not stop the spread of COVID-19, but again it would be a mitigating action open to schools to proactively try to keep it at bay. We know only too well how often children present to school sick, and how difficult it can be to contact parents as this becomes evident during the day. By identifying a temperature concern early, it is possible that fewer children and school staff would be exposed to COVID-19.

This measure would both assure worried parents that schools are doing all within their power to ensure best possible safety of all children attending school daily, and also alleviate concerns of teachers who have regularly had to deal with unwell children being sent to school daily.

(The concept of a full attendance certificate for the school year by any school needs to be put on hold, for very obvious reasons).

Some countries are asking children to wear masks in school. Do you think that our pupils should wear masks / visors / some protection in schools?

Feeling on this is obviously mixed amongst the 6.081 respondents to this question. 2.934 (48.2%) of respondents agree that our pupils should wear masks / visors / some protection in school. An additional 1,688 (27.2%) replied that it could be a good idea. Over ¾ responded that children should wear some form of protection in school, while under 24% did not agree.

The South Korean Study quoted in question 15 includes stark findings about how COVID-19 was transmitted amongst households, where people are less likely to wear masks and practice social distancing. Schools would be similar to households, only potentially far worse, with far more people in enclosed spaces for many hours per day. Time spent in school and mitigating plans and guidelines put in place by the DES will be very important.

Meanwhile, legislation has been put in place to ensure that masks are compulsory in shops. Children and school staff need the same protection as workers in all areas do. Households that children and school-staff return to daily need to know that their household member will return home having been protected to the maximum level possible while in school buildings.

Despite protestations from two Ministers for Education during the COVID19 Global Pandemic that schools will be safe environments to return to, 80% of respondents are worried for both their pupils as well as their own safety.  This outcome shows that the current lack of clear guidance and concrete supports is being felt by teachers, as well as illustrating that leadership and practical guidance is urgently needed to reassure the profession. Despite statements from two Ministers for Education and from several government and media sources that schools will be safe environments to return to, 80% of respondents are worried for their pupils’ and their own safety in the context of already overcrowded classrooms.  The pressure to open schools ‘as normal’ does not take into account that our class sizes are the biggest in Europe. 3 out of every 4 teachers – who know exactly what the daily practical implications are – cannot see how it is possible to have all children return safely to our classrooms.

The three most popular responses demonstrate that teachers are willing to try all and any approach to get school buildings open in the first instance.  It also makes a lie of the misleading notion that teachers do not want to go back to their physical workplace in September 2020.  For a full return for all pupils to happen safety guidelines including social distancing, screens, PPE, masks visors etc must all be in place. However, 58.5% of respondents do not see it as being realistic to expect all pupils to be back in our classrooms even with those measures put in place.


INTO Special Congress to issue new directive against Droichead?

A Special INTO Congress will be held on Sat. 21st October to discuss a motion calling for the reintroduction of a directive against participation in and cooperation with the Teaching Council’s new Droichead scheme for the probation/induction of NQTs.  The Special Congress comes about as a result of a groundswell of opposition to the decision by the union’s CEC to lift the directive against Droichead participation last May.

This CEC decision resulted in an unprecedented move from union activists to call special District meetings to demand a Special Congress.  In fact during late May/ early June 11 of the 14 Districts affected (Districts 1 and 2 are in Northern Ireland and not affected by this issue) passed the following motion:


a) rejects the interpretation that the “Droichead: The Integrated Professional Induction Framework” is not evaluative;

b) notes with concern that evaluation of NQTs by colleagues still exists under this new framework within the Joint Declaration;

c) demands that participation in PST must be properly resourced, funded and remunerated;

d) instructs the CEC to ballot all members, within the next school calendar month, on a directive not to participate in, or cooperate with,Droichead or any form of probation/induction as part of the Teaching Council registration process unless and until appropriate resourcing and remuneration is agreed and all aspects of peer evaluation are removed.

 Depth of feeling

This motion will now be discussed at the Special Congress and, if passed, members will be asked to ballot for a directive to withdraw cooperation with Droichead.  All members who were delegates to Congress ’17 in Belfast will be delegates to this Congress.  If any are unable to make it, branches can nominate substitute delegates in their place.

Rule 20 of the INTO’s Constitution allows for a Special Congress to be called if requisitioned by 6 District Committees.  This is the first time that a Special Congress on any issue has been called using this process.  As such it reflects the depth of feeling among the members on Droichead and on the manner in which the CEC lifted the directive in May.


The strong belief that the new Droichead policy still contains an element of evaluation – despite claims by the Teaching Council to the contrary – is one of the key concerns among members.  At the conclusion of the process the NQT and members of the Professional Support Team (ie her/his teaching colleagues) are asked to sign a Joint Declaration that states “We have reflected jointly, and believe that the information given above is accurate. Through our engagement in Droichead, we believe that we have participated in a quality teaching and learning process. We ask that the Teaching Council reflect this on the register.”

The Teaching Council claim that this is not evaluative but many teachers have raised concerns regarding what a mentor/member of the PST should do in the context where s/he does not believe that the NQT has ‘participated in a quality teaching and learning process’.  By having to make that value judgement, that surely involves the PST member in making an evaluation, even if the TC calls it non-evaluative.  If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck chances are that it is a duck…


The lack of any remuneration for principals or members of the Professional Support Team for the work involved in implementing Droichead in their school is another huge issue.  By allowing the rollout of Droichead to proceed without remuneration we, as teachers, would effectively be taking on work that DES inspectors used to do.  And we would be doing it for free.  Surely it is a basic trade union principle that we should not be taking on extra work without being paid for it.

The real tragedy is that those elected and appointed to the Teaching Council to represent teachers constitute a majority on the Council.  If all those directly elected by teachers or appointed by our unions to the Council had voted to support the proposal that Droichead should not be rolled out until remuneration was agreed when it came before the Council, we would not be in this position.  Clearly some of those supposedly representing the interests of teachers on the Teaching Council have questions to answer.

TUI directive

Before the summer, TUI members voted in support of a directive not to participate in or cooperate with Droichead.  Hopefully following this Special Congress INTO too will take a strong stance and deliver a message back to the Teaching Council that Droichead in its current format is still unacceptable and we will not be implementing it.


DES Saves €49.5 million due to lack of substitute teachers




While discrimination against new teachers on unequal payscales remains, due to DES “inability to pay” with budget constraints?

Teaching Council (TC) collated data released by the DES on 9/6/17 reveals that only 64% of substitutable absences were filled in the academic years from 2010/11 to 2014/15.


The number of substitutable days for those years was 915,000 on average, but a massive problem with teacher supply meant that schools could access qualified teachers for only an annual average of 590,000 days.

The DES therefore saved on paying substitute teachers at primary level for on average 325,000 days each year from at least 2010/11 to 2014/15, the range of the report.

The daily casual rate for qualified subs had been up to €195 but was decimated to €152.22 from 1/2/12 for new entrants, with various partial restorations over recent years.

If we take the lowest rate of pay applicable at the time (€152.22), which is generous to the extreme for calculation purposes, this would see the DES saving a whopping 49.5million every year at just the primary sector over the years for which the TC Technical Working Group (TWG) collated data.

There is no doubt as to the heightened and critical lack of subs in our schools in the past two years now, so this €49.5million figure as a saving per year can only be MASSIVELY increased in reality.


Our children should have been taught by qualified teachers. We can’t turn back time but we CAN do our best to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
National supply panels are essential. It is NOT acceptable that a “stop-gap” temporary fix, as proposed by Minister Bruton, including final year students-teachers and retired teachers stepping in to address teacher supply, be allowed:

This approach is the absolute antithesis of Minister Bruton’s aspirations to attaining a top quality education system in Ireland.

The DES has now saved a significant fortune (considerably underestimated in figures here) from annual budgets at the expense of children’s education, while claiming not to have had the funds under annual budgetary limitations to address pressing needs:

That money “saved” from the primary teaching sector alone could return school funding to the level it was at before austerity (approx. 30 million), pay equality for the whole public service (approx. 200 million), outstanding benchmarking (one decade late) for primary principals and DPs, remuneration for extra work expected for free under “Droichead”, and then some!

And finally: Why did the DES sit on the Teaching Council Teacher Supply report for a year and a half, which it received in December 2015, only to release it one day after a new pay deal was brokered, on June 9th, 2017?


How Inequality Destroys Society.

#NewEntrants #HowInequalityDestroysSociety


The idea that Government could treat current and new “entrants” differently is having a devastating effect on Irish society. Here are only a few of the many examples –


(1) In 2005, Noel Dempsey (FF) Minister for Education and Science decided to get rid of resource hours for children diagnosed with dyslexia and also those diagnosed with intellectual difficulties (Mild Learning Difficulty – which is not “mild” at all). He allowed those who had the resource hours to keep them. All new diagnoses (“new entrants”) would be without resource hours.


(2) In 2011 and again in 2012, new entrants to the public service had their pay slashed, but those currently in the job stayed on their old salary scale.


(3) 2012 teacher graduates had their qualification allowances taken away, despite working towards them and having an expectation of receiving them). Current teachers kept them.


(4) Today, 8/7/2016, the Irish Times tells us that patients currently being given an expensive cancer drug will still be given it, but “new entrants” will not.


Accepting the different treatment of “some”, the different treatment of “others” has led us to a society where some cancer patients are treated differently to others.


Everyone in society must fight inequality. As teachers, we must fight too and we must fight the inequality in our own back yard (the different treatment of “some” of our colleagues). It is disgusting and it is wrong to discriminate against people.


Government and Unions take note. We have had enough.




Teachers Bullied by Government, ASTI stand up.

The words below are from the inspirational Noelle Moran ASTI, who posted them as a comment on our VFT Facebook page.

We felt that her words deserved more space, so here they are. Well done, Noelle and ASTI. We call on all Teacher Unions to stand up against Government bullying of teachers. (The article to which Noelle refers is linked at the end of this piece). Thank you, Noelle. Solidarity with ASTI.

Noel Moran: “As the person interviewed for this article, I was disappointed that some points made by me over the phone to contribute to this article did not make it to the finished piece and there are others presented here I feel need clarification. There are also inaccuracies here I want to correct. As a result I wrote this piece and copied it beneath the article on journal.ie, and as it was done, I decided to copy it here. Most people on this page are teaching and are very familiar with the situation but this is for those of you who are not and want more information on what all of this is about:

1. During the term of the Croke Park Agreement 2010-2013 inferior pay rates were introduced for new entrants to the public service in 2011 and 2012. It emerged that the terms of the Agreement did not extend to new entrants which enabled the government to impose this inequality. Unions did not sign new entrants up to inferior pay scales. Pay Agreements mean the unions agree not to take industrial action on issues and as such this issue was not acted upon during the term of CPA. One of the key reasons ASTI recommended rejection of the following agreement, the Haddington Road Agreement 2013 to June 2016 was so that outside of a collective bargaining agreement we could take industrial action so that the government would address this issue. Regrettably on the expiration of the CPA other unions did not remain outside of the HRA so that we could deal with this issue collectively, given that it is a public service wide issue and not just affecting teachers. In spite of a recommendation for ASTI to reject HRA in a second ballot it was accepted and consequently, due to being party to a collective agreement with the government once again our hands were tied and we were not allowed to take industrial action to address the unequal pay. One of the primary reasons we have rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement is to enable us to deal with this issue. Many people reading this post work in the public sector, and many others have family members who do so, and it is very unlikely people would deem it fair that two like colleagues, irrespective of the job type, should be paid on totally different pay scales. This is unjust. It should never have happened but will continue if we keep signing up to collective bargaining agreements preventing us from taking industrial action to restore a common basic pay scale for all working within a particular profession.

2. Casualisation is a huge problem in teaching with many teachers teaching part-time hours and being made permanent on less than full hours meaning they earn less than full salary. This has become an increased problem since 2004 although the article incorrectly refers to security for new entrants ‘forfeited in 2013’. Some teachers have contracts which will eventually lead to permanency; others do not. For those who do not have contracts leading to permanency, under HRA the government promised to establish a panel which teachers could have access to after a certain amount of service in different schools which would help them towards obtaining more secure employment. The promise of a panel was one of the very few positives promised by the government under HRA. They had 3 years to establish this panel but talks have not even commenced on setting this up. Teachers delivered on their commitments under HRA and the government reneged on theirs but still expect teachers to sign up to another agreement. This is unacceptable and hard to believe!

3. There was a paid substitution and supervision (S&S) scheme for teachers for approx. 12 years up until HRA. The S&S scheme covers yard duty and supervision of classes when teachers are away with teams etc. Under HRA, teachers agreed to do 3 years of this S&S unpaid for the duration of this agreement but written into HRA was a partial restoration of this pay in September 2016 and 2017. This was agreed to as part of HRA not LRA. It was not the case that teachers ‘thought that from June 2016’ we would get extra payment for these duties as this articles quotes me saying; it is that it was written into HRA that there would be partial restoration of this money in 2016 and 2017. There is nothing written into the HRA that this partial pay restoration was to be conditional on signing up to future agreements. Teachers have delivered on the 3 years free S&S as agreed under HRA, but after the event, the government is now saying it will renege on what was agreed to and is threatening not to pay us this money in 2016 and 2017 if we do not sign up to LRA.

4. The government intend to use FEMPI legislation (the questionable continued legal existence of this legislation is a separate issue) to freeze our incremental salary until 2018. They are also threatening redundancies and the ending of the teacher redeployment scheme, the withdrawal of a faster route to permanency for those who qualify for permanent CID contracts in addition to the threat not to make the S&S payments promised and agreed to. This list is not exhaustive. There are other threats, financial and otherwise and they have told us there will be future penalties in the medium term if we do not sign up to LRA. An interesting aspect to all of this is is there really a choice anymore? Our union had no say in what went into the Lansdowne Road ‘Agreement’; nor did most other unions. It was presented to us and we were expected to ballot but it currently looks like no union is allowed to actually reject these agreements. The result, as we are realising is a backdrop of threats. HRA was a sectoral agreement for all of the different groups of public sector workers. It is time for the government to revisit the idea of sectoral agreements as agreements dealing with Education, Health etc separately would have more benefits for those sectors than universal ‘one size fits all’ agreements. That said, these agreements will achieve nothing at all if the government chooses to renege on its side of the bargain. Our union has accepted an invitation to talks with the Minister to talk about issues of mutual concern. Hopefully, this will start a process to address the issues.

** On a separate note, the picture used to go with this article is one from a strike day at some point. Today was a Protest Day, during the school holidays as some people who posted comments have pointed out, and there were no strike placards used at the Dáil**

Thanks for taking the time to read this. The issues mentioned above are not all of the issues, but are the ones referred to in the article. I hope this puts some context around the reasons the ASTI has chosen not to sign up to LRA and is reacting to government threats under FEMPI and in general. Thanks to all who showed up at our Dáil Protest today and to all others who wished us well. The solidarity is much appreciated.”