Although the turnout was low at 23%, the new Teaching Council was elected this week. At primary level, around 7,500 teachers voted, which represents around 25% of all primary teachers. In any case, I was glad that most of the candidates who were elected went into the elections with a number of promises to reform the Teaching Council.
There is huge disquiet among primary teachers towards the Teaching Council and there are a number of issues that were raised as part of the campaign. Firstly, the candidates believed that the Teaching Council was not deemed to be relevant to most of the profession except to take €65 out of their pay packet every year. Aside from this, candidates believed that most primary teachers are disconnected from the work of the Teaching Council and see them as imposers of change rather than enablers. However, the candidates also concerned themselves with promising to make changes to Droichead. This was the reason I voted for the candidates in question. Now that they are in, what challenges do they face?
For me, one of the major weaknesses of the Teaching Council is that it treats primary and post-primary sectors the same. Apart from both sectors working in buildings called “schools” they have very little in common. Droichead, for example, has been welcomed with open arms at second level. At primary level, it’s the exact opposite. When it comes to voting structures within the Teaching Council, will the primary sector get their voices heard?
I would gladly pay my €65 per annum if our new delegates put a stop to Droichead in its current form in primary schools. Droichead will not further professionalise primary school teaching and the current pilot demonstrates this quite clearly. The job of the new candidates, I believe, is to convince their Teaching Council colleagues of the glaringly obvious flaws and get them to come up with other models to pilot before choosing one that works. The Teaching Council has had ample time to pilot other methodologies and they didn’t. Now they say they have a deadline to introduce Droichead by 2017, they may have to forego probation until they they do the job properly.
While there are other issues such as Cosán to get through, the single most important thing that needs to be done is to hit the pause button on Droichead. The Teaching Council have alienated enough teachers at this stage and this is a final opportunity to get things right.