On reading our government's Nation Recovery Plan I have become extremely dismayed. Their savage cuts in education are going to hit the most vulnerable in society - a reduction in third level grants, student fee increases, reduction in teacher numbers in both primary and secondary, a 10% reduction in "new entrants" into the teaching profession, a reduction in support staff, a reduction in the number of resource teachers for traveller children, a cap on special needs assistants, a loss of language support teachers and an overall cut of 360 million Euro over 4 years.
But it is the creation of a two tier teaching profession that worries me most. There can be no situation where a "new entrant" into the teaching profession can be valued at 10% less than someone with one more year's experience. This is truly a disturbing development and one which must not be allowed to come to fruition. It's worth noting that the government have yet to state if new TD's will suffer this 10% cut but it is widely believed that they won't. There is another issue too - that of the definition of "new entrant". It is being claimed that a "new entrant" not only includes new public servants but also individuals who are returning to the public service after a break of more than 26 weeks. If this is true a situation could arise where an experienced teacher, who may have left the profession for a short period, would return to the lowest increment and suffer a 10% on top of that - effectively cutting their entitled wages enormously.
There are also concerns for privately paid teachers, including myself. I am not a public servant but am paid the same pay scale as someone on my state wage with the same level of teaching experience and qualifications (I incidentally pay into the Teacher Superannuation Scheme too). So, should I decide to return to a public school or indeed be moved onto the incremental staff of my own school, will I suffer the same consequences too? - a return to point one on the scale and a 10% pay cut on top of that? All this needs to be clarified immediately and is a serious worry!
We cannot allow our staff rooms to be split into a two tiers, with one side paid 10% more than the other, and I certainly don't wish to be put in that position. The professional integrity of the teaching profession needs to be kept intact. For this reason I call on the Teaching Council, who's role is to "to promote teaching as a profession at primary and post-primary levels, to promote the professional development of teachers and to regulate standards in the profession", to stand up for teachers and not allow the government introduce these grossly unfair amendments to our terms of employment. To date few teachers are seeing the value of the Teaching Council and look to their unions to defend the integrity of profession. If the Teaching Council cannot do this or deems it outside their remit, then I see little value in its existence either.