Northern Ireland news

Gerry Murphy: 'Exhausted' teachers alarmed at new summer scheme plans

Teachers are alarmed at proposals to ask them to staff summer schemes ahead of an early reopening of schools, writes Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary of the INTO

Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO)

TRADE unions have been informed of plans by the Department of Education to seek funding from the executive for two summer schemes to be run in late July and early August.

One, planned as a distance learning online programme to support literacy and numeracy for the Year 6/7 cohort. The second scheme will see a two-week catch-up programme made available to children from socially deprived areas.

The proposals from the minister are at odds with the department's own current number one priority - the safe, wider reopening of schools.

Teachers are eager to see all children back in school. We want it done in a safe and systematic way but what the minister is proposing with these summer schemes is educationally dubious, a wasteful use of scarce resources and an attempt to wring the last ounce of good will from an exhausted workforce.

Prefacing proposed teacher involvement in these schemes as voluntary is a nonsense.

Buildings do not open, resource, clean and close themselves. There will be pressure on the principal to open, and organise support workers to allow schemes envisaged to proceed. It is these very principals and staff that have ensured key worker availability by providing facilities since March 23, in some cases seven days a week.

It is this very same staff that the minister expects to return without a significant break.

Pretending that one of these schemes is not about preparing a minority of children for unregulated, private transfer tests, to facilitate the interests of a very small number of schools, is an insult to the profession's intelligence.

The funding necessary to establish this provision would be better spent by schools directly. It is needed to secure additional cleaning and PPE materials and to fund the necessary staffing to ensure schools are ready to receive all the children and young people back into a safe learning environment resourced and ready to support their emotional as well as educational wellbeing in September.

Teachers are not reporting any demands from parents or carers for additional schooling for their children over the summer. Rather they are saying the children are increasingly restless and looking forward to their summer holiday.

To ask an already exhausted teaching workforce to give up a further two weeks holiday having already taken two weeks with his ridiculous proposal of an August 17 restart date shows a remarkable disregard for the health and wellbeing of the systems greatest resource.

Claims from ill-informed commentators about teachers' unions being unrepresentative of teachers’ views are to be expected from these opportunistic headline grabbers. Trade unions represent the views of the membership - they don't manufacture them.

Teachers are telling INTO they are determined when the schools reopen they will be the welcoming, safe and happy places our children deserve. They must be staffed by teachers and colleagues in essential support roles who have had time to recover, prepare and plan for the children's return.

How is this to be achieved if already exhausted principals and teachers are going to be working through the summer?

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news