Brexit

Teachers' fears about no-deal Brexit

David O'Brien, who lives in Mullaghbawn, Co Armagh, is a teacher in St Ultan's SNS at Flowerhill in Navan

A no-deal Brexit is a major threat to the education systems across Ireland, teachers have warned.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), founded in 1868, is the oldest and largest teachers' trade union on the island.

It represents 36,367 staff at primary level in the Republic and 7,256 across primary and post-primary in the north.

The union's annual northern conference this year heard concerns raised by classroom staff who cross the border each day for work.

Increasing numbers are seeking permanent jobs in the Republic due to better working conditions and pay.

Teachers living in Newry and working in Dundalk, for example, could have a salary range from €36,000 to €68,000.

The salary range in the north for the same teacher is £22,000 to £37,000.

A teacher who has qualified in an EU member state is eligible to be registered in another member state, subject to certain conditions.

Primary teachers trained in the north and whose qualifications have been assessed and accepted by the Republic's Department of Education and Skills, but who do not possess the required Irish language qualification, are granted a five-year period of provisional recognition during which they will work towards the qualification.

In Northern Ireland, individuals recognised as qualified teachers in the EU, EEA or Switzerland may make application for recognition with the General Teaching Council.

INTO said it was unclear how these jobs would be facilitated should the UK depart without a deal.

Schools on both sides of the border continue to notify the union of their struggle to secure supply teachers.

It argues that at such a critical time for staffing, it is imperative that additional barriers not be created which will only affect schools' ability to provide quality teachers.

There are many teachers who already cross the border every day to take up substitute and full-time roles.

Those who undertake substitute work fear their experience will not be recognised in the Republic after the UK leaves the EU.

Others are worried that they will not be able to transfer pension contributions earned in the north to the Republic.

And some have also shared concerns that a hard border will affect travel time to and from work.

INTO president Feargal Brougham was among a delegation to take concerns to Brussels.

"With the increasingly haphazard approach being taken to Brexit by the UK Government and the very real possibility that the UK might depart the EU without a deal, our members deserve guarantees that their jobs will be protected," he said.

"Whether training in one jurisdiction and working in another or commuting across the border daily, we are concerned that teachers are being overlooked."

The union's Northern Ireland chairman Paddy MacAllister said there were concerns that a no-deal Brexit would leave some members without protection.

"Those members crossing the border each day to teach in Northern Ireland schools play a critical role to our society and deserve clarity on their roles. In meetings with senior voices in Brussels, we have demanded that teachers receive clarity from governments in Northern Ireland and in Dublin."

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David O'Brien, who lives in Mullaghbawn in Co Armagh but teaches in Flowerhill in Navan, Co Meath, shared his experiences at his union's annual conference:

"There are not the same benefits in the north for teachers as there are in the south. The differences are stark and many teachers from the north are heading over the border because of better conditions.

"But, who knows what the impact will be when Brexit kicks in? I grew up experiencing the roads being closed, seeing the patrols, sitting in traffic and getting diverted. None of us know what we are facing.

"What driving license do we need, what way will our health cover be, our car insurance, what will our pension provision look like and of course the everyday hassle of getting to and from work? But sure no-one knows because no-one has any answers and there's still no government in Stormont to even give some form of guidance.

"I am five to six minutes from Dundalk geographically and live two miles from the border. It's no wonder so many teachers from the north are moving into the southern jurisdiction. The pay is better and the conditions are better and the INTO is right to point this out."

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