In My Opinion: These may be tough times for teachers, but they've never been more needed
This Friday is World Teachers' Day. When you consider that there are 4,000 schools in Ireland, with one million learners each day, it is no exaggeration to say that the contribution teachers make to our society is profound.
The last few years have been very difficult for serving teachers in terms of the pay cuts that they have suffered, and also for new entrants to the profession with the elimination of qualifications allowances in particular.
They have been difficult for all those who have lost their jobs. In this context, it is no surprise that the morale of the teaching profession has been greatly affected during these challenging economic times.
While the council has no statutory remit in relation to employment conditions, we do have a remit in ensuring that high calibre individuals continue to be attracted to the profession.
We have already made clear that we are concerned as to the impact these measures on pay and allowances will have on the attractiveness of teaching as a profession. We are all acutely aware of the severe financial crisis which the country faces.
However, as the recent international report on the structure of Teacher Education in Ireland noted, nothing is as critical to our communities' well-being and recovery as the quality of teaching.
The Teaching Council believes that teaching is the most important profession in society, second only to parenthood in terms of its impact on our lives.
All those in the profession know that their work hinges on the concept of trust. Each morning parents all over Ireland give the most important gifts in their lives to the care of a person who they probably spend no more than an hour and a half talking to over the course of the school year.
When you reflect on this fact, you realise the responsibility and wonderful opportunity that goes to the heart of teaching as well as the trust that parents place in the profession.
This is backed up by the research which the council commissioned on public attitudes to the teaching profession, in which over two thirds of respondents rated teaching as "very trusted" or "trusted".
The Teaching Council did not create this trust -- teachers did that.
But we know in the Ireland of today how fragile a concept trust is. The old ways of maintaining trust no longer hold.
The teaching profession itself realised that a statutory, independent regulator would be required to maintain that trust.
Teaching matters. Trust matters. The Teaching Council is here to make sure that teaching continues to matter well into the 21st Century.
There may have been better economic times to go into teaching, but there has never been a more critically important period for bright, innovative people to enter the profession.
All those who successfully qualify for entry into this profession will have a great opportunity to guide future generations as they negotiate the new landscape that awaits.
Tomás Ó Ruairc is Director of the Teaching Council