Aine McGinley from Stranorlar has been teaching in Murlog National School, Lifford for the past 9 years. As a member of the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation’s (INTO) Central Executive Committee (CEC), she represents over 1,600 primary school teachers in Donegal and Leitrim. While teaching full time and doing the INTO work voluntarily outside school hours, she receives substitute cover to attend monthly CEC meetings in Dublin.
In tomorrows budget, Aine is hoping for a reduction in class size to the EU average of 20 because in Donegal 19% of children in primary classes in are taught in classes over 30. She also hopes the teaching Principals get to keep the one day a week for leadership duties and lastly for adequate funding for schools.
Aine said ‘The role of the CEC (Central Executive Committee) is to progress the resolutions that our members pass at our annual Congress. These resolutions set the agenda for the CEC Representatives for the year. We also manage the Organisation between congresses.
I have very regular communication with the members in my district through branch and district meetings held three times a year – I clock up a lot of miles especially every October, January and May travelling to the fifteen branches between Carndonagh and Mohill. We also hold various conferences and the training events at which we regularly consult our members and local officers. All 1600 members have my contact details and many contact me if they have queries or need support.
I am delighted to have been re-elected annually to the CEC role as it is one I take very seriously. It is a great honour to represent our teachers and principals who do such amazing work in our primary and special schools.
The Covid pandemic has brought the work of the teacher under a spotlight that nobody could have imagined when the school buildings were closed last March and parents were being asked to support their children with work that the teachers regularly set them. There has been a newfound respect for primary teachers and the role we play in laying firm foundations for the children of Ireland in their most important formative years in the education system.
Having worked so hard to ensure that government delivered a workable plan and suite of resources to support the safe reopening of schools, we are now campaigning to highlight our priorities for tomorrows Budget 2021. We need a reduction in class size, further supports for our school leaders and improved funding for our schools.
Our class sizes in Ireland are now the highest in Europe, where the average is 20 pupils per class. No wonder it was easier for every other country to reopen schools safely! Ireland’s average is 25 per class and it must be embarrassing for our politicians that one in five Donegal primary school children is taught in classes over 30. Our teachers are teaching and trying to maintain high standards in education as well as endeavouring to ensure social distancing through a pandemic, in seriously overcrowded classrooms. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Principals were key to the reopening of schools in September and they deserve better support from government. INTO has fought for additional supports for school leadership and we need to ensure that these are maintained long after the pandemic. Our teaching principals who are expected to teach their classes and lead the school have one day per week out of the classroom this year. This is the minimum that they need to administer their schools.
Schools, for too long, have been reliant on parents’ associations to fundraise to meet the shortfall in government grants simply to pay the bills, such as heating and cleaning. The huge disparity between funding of primary and secondary schools is totally unjustified. Our primary schools deserve proper funding from government to ensure that they can function properly and not have to go begging to their Parents’ Associations simply to keep afloat.
I would urge you all to get behind the INTOs email campaign for Budget 2020 and email your TDs to put pressure on them to look after our primary schools and make primary education their primary concern. https://www.into.ie/campaign/budget2021/ Budget Day is 13th October 2020.
If government delivers for primary education, all of the work of the CEC in the last few months will have been so worthwhile. But there’s still six months until Easter, so our members will make sure that we are kept busy fighting for more improvements between now and then. You would have to love this work to keep doing it year after year, but I have to say I really relish the challenge’ she concluded.