Letter to my Northern Ireland colleagues


While I do not have experience working in your jurisdiction I have a good understanding of the issues and indeed we share some of the same type of struggles – particularly pay and the ever growing administrative workload crowding out the real work of teaching and learning.

However, you don’t need me to tell you that we work in very different contexts – we have a relatively collaborative working relationship with a functioning government and a generally accepted ideology that teachers and public education are important and need investment – I’m very aware that you have neither and you have the massive uncertainty of Brexit looming which will not only have an impact on funding but on some of our members travelling from living on one side of the border to work on the other.

Sadly in the south we seem to be following in your paperwork footsteps – a trend that as general secretary I would work to challenge and reverse on both sides of the border. Not only is it having a detrimental impact on teachers’ space and energy to teach but I see it causing burn out and draining morale.

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No more than your immense pay challenges, and my solidarity is with you in your industrial action, it will take the concerted and collaborative effort of all teacher unions working together against it – which is why I would work with our Northern Secretary to ensure inter-union collaborations and with the ICTU NI Education Committee to effectively serve as a strong united front against education cuts and teacher workload.

Moving away from what are known unknowns to what is actually within our control I want to make 3 proposals that I would pursue as INTO General Secretary.

Promoting teaching and learning: The first one would be to better publicly promote and showcase teaching using a variety of media – we’ve recently hired a new Communications Official in our Dublin Office and we’ve had much social media success in highlighting the actual classroom activities and learning going on in our schools – this helps to engrain in the minds of the public, especially parents who vote, and policy makers that quality teaching and learning, not administrative box ticking, is core to pupil achievement, it helps to engrain in their minds that teachers’ judgement and autonomy can be trusted and that overwhelming bureaucracy serves no real learning purpose.

Professional development and training opportunities: The second area I would promote is enhancing the actual professional supports, particular professional development and officer training opportunities. We have a very strong learning and training section in the south including online learning – we should be sharing these resources and working more dynamically together.

Professional development modules and course would go some way to supporting your teaching, while enhanced officer, school rep and new member training supports would help boost the role of our NI officers and indirectly support member recruitment and activism.

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Integrated education: The final area I would like to address is the current divide in education provision and funding between the maintained and controlled sectors. Aside from the duplication of bureaucracy, planning and funding we must look to how our education system can more effectively influence a cohesive, shared inclusive society. I grew up during the troubles, in a minority, on the other side of the border and I know only too well how decisive those times were and how their legacy is still felt.

In the interests of a shared future north and south we need to open up the conversation of moving to a more integrated education system in a more effective and dynamic way. We’ve seen the role unions can play in laying the foundations of positive social change and it’s my aspiration that INTO lead on creating a new education future for the teachers and children of this community.

If these are issues that you view important and would like to work with me on them please consider giving me your No. 1 Vote for INTO General Secretary.

Thank you!



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