No newly qualified teacher can now be expected to afford to buy a home, says head of primary teaching union
The housing crisis will trigger a new exodus of young teachers from Ireland, there were warnings today.
Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) president Joe McKeown said no recently qualified teacher could now reasonably expect to be able to afford to buy a house in most parts of Ireland.
For many, even rented accommodation was out of reach, he said.
“Unless we address this critical issue, we will see another exodus of our young and talented teachers,” he said.
The INTO president said young teachers would seek out destinations where “their reasonable aspirations are more likely to be realised”.
“Who will teach our children then?” he asked, in his opening address to the union’s annual conference.
“Having a roof over your head is a fundamental right for all citizens in a republic. Owning the roof over your head should not be an impossible dream for the vast majority of citizens,” he said.
It is not unusual for newly qualified Irish teaches to go abroad to work, often in search of adventure.
But the numbers emigrating hit very significant levels in the austerity years after the banking crash, when lower pay scales were introduced for newly qualified teachers.
The large outflows, much of it to the Middle East, where it was estimated at one point that 6,000-10,000 Irish teachers were working, contributed to serious staffing shortages at home.
But as two-tier pay scales become a thing of the past, the INTO leader is warning that the housing crisis is a new threat to teacher supply.
His warning comes as schools face ongoing staffing challenges as a result of teacher absences caused by Covid.
The arrival of thousands of Ukrainian pupils is also creating demand for more teachers. While Education Minister Norma Foley has promised that the necessary resources will be provided, schools are asking, “Where will we find the teachers?”
Mr McKeown warned of the potential impact of the housing crisis on school staffing as he spoke of the serious erosion of living standards caused by spiralling inflation.
He said it “has to be addressed urgently by Government if industrial harmony is to continue”.
But he added that pay increases alone would not address the crisis in housing crisis.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has triggered a review clause in the public service pay pact, Building Momentum, to deal with the inflation issue.
In that context, the INTO conference will set out its expectations for its members under those negotiations.
Mr McKeown said national pay agreements had provided much-needed stability and security through the most difficult of times.
He said in the bad times, “We endured swingeing pay cuts and savage reductions in public services” as the country emerged from recession, pay demands were modest as “we sought to play our part in creating secure foundations for sustainable growth”.
Mr McKeown also addressed the legacy of Covid, saying teachers’ experience and expertise told them that the effects on children’s educational development would be felt for many years to come.
He said it would require sustained financial support, additional staffing, and a re-calibration of expectations.
He said the damaging educational effects of Covid continued throughout this year and were unlikely to end next year.
He said the Covid supports, including CLASS hours, which were used to help pupils catch up with lost learning, supply panels of substitute teachers and administrative supports would be needed next year as well.