I had a couple of ideas about what I was going to blog about next but find myself putting them aside for today for the simple reason that I went to my local INTO branch meeting yesterday. We had a talk on the situation regarding NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers to the uninitiated) and the usual (but in this case not-so-usual) CEC report.
Here’s what I got from it: angry. Angry at myself, first and foremost, for not staying better informed and for not being more proactive about ongoing developments in education and in my own profession. Angry at a government who want a first class education system for bargain basement prices. Angry at a media who hide behind mastheads and and undisclosed salaries while persistently maligning the public service and teachers more specifically.
The meeting outlined the absolutely disgraceful changes made to NQTs’ pay and conditions, changes that render NQTs second class citizens in their own profession. As someone who has, to date, been sheltered from many of these changes, I find it disturbing to think that my younger colleagues in education are so little valued by this government. What this government forgets is that what made this country so successful during the so-called boom years was the ready availability of an educated workforce (obviously coupled with our access to the European market). Success in education means having top calibre teachers, something that this country will no longer have if NQTs pay and conditions continue to be eroded. We need the best and brightest teaching in our schools and I have to say that for all that I love my job I would hesitate before recommending teaching to others at this point in time. How disheartening it must be to young graduates to leave college with little or no work on offer, significantly less pay given for what work is there, extra work expected of you in comparison to that expected of your better paid colleagues and to top it all off, a media and government campaign to tell the country that your profession are lazy, overpaid and underworked.
To any NQTs out there I say that you are not alone. Despite the ongoing media spin, your fellow teachers did not hang you out to dry. When I voted on the PSA/Croke Park, it never occurred to me that younger teachers would suffer insult and injury by repeated cuts such as have since happened. Perhaps that was naive but it is the truth. With the Croke Park Agreement limping towards its inevitable demise, I suspect our situations may become much more equal (and I don’t mean that in a good way) very soon if something isn’t done to challenge the current trend.
Stand up and speak out.
There’s a march in Dublin next Wednesday to send the message that it’s time to start valuing education the way we as a country we should. I’m not sure we have always been an island of saints (the various tribunals and inquiries of recent history seem to suggest otherwise) but I do think that we should aspire to be an island of scholars where we strive to give the best start to every generation of children through their education. So get to Dublin and make your voice heard. At yesterday’s INTO meeting the very valid point was made that if we don’t show up in LARGE numbers, we will be implying that we will take whatever cuts come our way lying down. If you have no way of getting to Dublin, then get on your email and let every one of your elected representatives know how you feel.
I’m serious. The time for apathy or complacency is over. Get involved and protect this profession.
Otherwise? Sit down and shut up. The message will be clear: everything they say about us being underworked and overpaid is true and we will willingly accept whatever is thrown at us. I don’t believe that’s true. I have the height of respect for my colleagues in education. I think they work hard for their students and I think that deserves recognition.
Side note: Some of you may say we’ll be villified by the public and the media if we protest. But aren’t we already villified by those same people on a daily basis? Do we go in to work every day to be our students’ friends or their teachers? Since when are we in this job for popularity?
Some further reading on the subject of education and public sector cuts:
There are those advocating a different approach to economic recovery –
The INTO provides information on a variety of issues that Wednesday’s march aims to highlight –
Details of how teachers have already been hit by cuts (via @levdavidovic on Twitter) –
Evidence that austerity is not effective (via @levdavidovic on Twitter):