Friday 20 April 2018

I've a Masters, but I'm struggling by on just seven hours a week

For Heather Keleghan, lower pay rates are only part of the problem. Newly qualified second-level teachers find it difficult to get a full-time job and the 25-year-old Dubliner, who is qualified to teach religion and music, is working only seven hours a week. This is an edited extract from a blog she wrote last week . . .

Teacher and blogger Heather Keleghan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Teacher and blogger Heather Keleghan. Photo: Frank McGrath

Heather Keleghan

In school, I was asked what did I want to do when I got older? What did I want to study in college? There was always one answer. I wanted to teach.

So I went to college feeling incredibly blessed to be able to do so. I was going to have a respectable job and a job that I loved.

In first year, we found out that, due to the recession and cutbacks, newly qualified teachers who qualified after 2011 would be hit with a cut in their pay.

At the time, this didn't really bother us. Qualifying seemed like a distant dream when you had essays to write, teaching practice to prepare for - and a daunting thesis that needed to be finished. I loved every minute.

Then in 2013, reality hit. Jobs were nowhere to be found. After we graduated, over half my year left Ireland for jobs overseas. I decided to stay home and upgrade my CV. So I enrolled in a Master's degree in education.

In total, I spent five years studying to get a job. I left college with my degree in one hand and my Master's in the other, ready to face the world. How naive I was.

My first year out, I was unemployed for months.

I received my first job in November 2014, a six-hour maternity cover contract. I was delighted - employed until May 2015.

When summer 2015 came along, I signed on to receive the social welfare. As time went by, anxiety, depression and anger began to set in, one thought constantly haunting me: 'I have done what society has asked of me, I made all the right choices, I worked hard, I went to college, and here I am lining up to collect my social welfare every week.'

After a few weeks on social welfare, I received a letter from my local office stating I had to attend a meeting. This meeting would, according to the letter, help me find a job. It would introduce me to the JobBridge programme and I would get my own career guidance counsellor.

The anger, anxiety and depression began to set in deeper. I did not need JobBridge and I did not need a career guidance counsellor. I needed a job, a job that I trained for. I needed the Department of Education, the Minister for Education and unions to hear me. Instead, I felt alone and forgotten.

September 2015 passed and I found myself yet again without a job. In December 2015, a guardian angel was looking over me, and I found myself with two jobs in two schools. I work a total of just seven hours a week, divided between two schools. After tax one week I earned €80.

I will be receiving the social welfare again in the summer. If I did not have the security of living at home with my parents, I would be living out of my car. I would be homeless.

This is my life. I cannot save money, I cannot move out of my family home and I cannot plan for my future. I am faced with constant job insecurity. I am not alone with this struggle. There are thousands like me.

Newly qualified teachers are fighting for equal pay. I am 100pc behind all teachers fighting for equal pay for equal work. One thought, however, lingers in my mind. What good is this pay equality, when I cannot get a full-time job?

Some people have forever scrutinized teachers over our holidays and short working days. Now we face more scrutiny for wanting to be paid as equals.

If they knew that teachers are living in such poverty with no job prospects, what would they say?

Irish Independent

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