Belfast Telegraph

Teachers' workloads turning Northern Ireland schools into pressure cookers, claims union

By Adrian Rutherford

Growing workloads are having a severe impact on Northern Ireland's schools, turning them into pressure cookers, a conference will hear today.

Hundreds of teachers will gather in Fermanagh to hear the chairperson of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) address delegates on the impact of budget cuts, increased work, inspection reports and school closures.

Dorothy McGinley, chairperson of INTO's northern committee, will spell out the deepening crisis at the union's annual northern conference at the Lough Erne Resort.

The union - the largest teachers' trade union in Ireland - has been outspoken over pay, workloads and inspection reports, and has described teachers as data collection experts.

Speaking ahead of this morning's conference, Ms McGinley said: "Schools are like pressure cookers about to boil over.

"Teachers are becoming more and more bogged down and are disappearing under a tsunami of initiatives - target setting, monitoring and evaluating.

"The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) has dramatically impacted on every aspect of school life. This includes the curriculum we teach, the way we teach it and the countless ways we assess it.

"Ultimately it has culminated in the naming and shaming of those schools which are deemed to be failing educationally and financially."

Ms McGinley said the status quo must change and teachers need to get back to doing the job they love.

She said: "It's hard to identify the tipping point which led us to the current state of affairs, the hours and hours wasted on educationally pointless evidence gathering, followed by the culture of continually trying to refine teaching and working ridiculous hours to invent ETI proof lessons that achieve the impossible.

"Principals are being forced to live and breathe policy after policy and teachers are up half the night preparing for lessons which then are not inspected.

"This must stop. INTO members have had enough of the unsustainable levels of pressure, the unsustainable workload and they have had enough of being denied a real pay increase."

Ms McGinley, who is a teacher at Sion Mills Primary School, said the system for school inspections needed reform.

"Teachers are professionals who strive to improve teaching and learning in their school and want to provide the best outcomes for their students," she added.

"School inspection models must assist in this. The INTO will continue to be at the forefront in finding a fair system. Teachers are not afraid of a robust and effective system, but we insist it be funded, fair and respectful of teachers.

"The lid needs to be lifted off the pressure cooker before it boils over."

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