Tuesday 28 March 2017

Teaching union orders members to refuse intern scheme job offers

Mark Hilliard

ONE of the country's biggest teaching unions has ordered members not to take jobs in the Government's controversial internship scheme amid suggestions teachers are being exploited.

JobBridge offers internships to unemployed people, who get an additional €50 a week, on top of their social welfare payments, for taking part.

The scheme was extended to schools in September with the Department of Education pointing out that recent teaching graduates need classroom experience to complete their training.

However, it immediately attracted criticism and was described as an "insult (to) and a shame" on the profession as well as being exploitative.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) has until now been reluctant to dismiss the scheme but, following a meeting over the weekend, it is to issue a directive to its 32,000 primary teacher members not to get involved with the scheme at all. Instead, the INTO will be urging newly qualified graduates to seek temporary work, covering sick or maternity leave, and build experience in that way. "There are a number of reasons why people are against it, a lot of people think it's exploitative," said INTO spokesman Peter Mullan.

"The best way for a teacher to get work at the moment is through temporary work. You also have to be unemployed for three months (to qualify for the JobBridge scheme)," he said.

Qualify

"Are you going to turn down teaching work here and there just so you can qualify for that?"

The organisation has had "a very small" number of emails from people wishing to avail of the scheme and last week there were only around "half-a-dozen" jobs advertised in national schools.

However, it has now moved to freeze the initiative.

An online petition set up objecting to the JobBridge approach hosted angry reaction from teachers among hundreds of posts.

"If the Government can get qualified teachers working for the cost of the dole plus €50, why on earth would they pay the full amount in future?" one asked.

The INTO's move follows that of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), which recently issued a directive for its members not to cooperate.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has asked its representatives in schools to monitor the situation closely and remains concerned that the initiative leaves people open to exploitation.

Mr Mullan added that the main "carrot" attached to the internship was that unqualified teachers could use it to cover their 20-week probation period.

However, he added that there was a commonly held misunderstanding that this probation period had to be completed in order to teach abroad.

The scheme, according to a Department of Education circular last month, provides work placement for six to nine months to "break the cycle" of people being unable to get jobs without experience.

Irish Independent

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