Saturday 16 December 2017

Unions lash out as Howlin warns he will sack bad teachers

Fionnan Sheahan, Political Editor

TEACHERS’ unions have hit back at Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin’s promise to sack bad teachers and other poor performers in the public sector.

Mr Howlin told the Irish Independent it is “not acceptable” for parents had to get grinds for their children because the teacher of a subject wasn’t good enough.

“Where there is a manifest failure, that person has to be moved aside,” Mr Howlin said.

But Pat King, general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), says teachers are already disciplined for not performing.

He insisted this system is satisfactory.

“Teachers have certainly been dealt with in accordance with disciplinary procedures,” Mr King said.

“I’ve represented teachers in that situation and so have my colleagues. But it’s not as widespread as suggested in today’s headlines.”

Upping the ante in the Coalition's demands for reform, Mr Howlin said the Government would move on those who were not doing their job.

He warned that the job performance of public sector workers would be evaluated far more closely.

The minister also said there would be 2,500 more voluntary redundancies from the public sector next year, starting with the HSE, education and agriculture.

And ahead of a reworking of the Croke Park deal, he said future promotions will be based entirely on merit.

"We now need to have established skill sets, we need to have evaluation of performance, and where there is no performance there needs to be consequences," he said.

"Ultimately, people can't stay in a job they can't do. You move them into a job where they can perform, or you retrain them or you upskill them.<

"If they haven't got a skill, you have to give it to them," he added.

The minister said the practice of promotion being given to those who were there longest would end.

He said he had come across examples of people in charge of areas where they had no expertise.

"That was just the way elements of the public sector worked in the past – that you got promoted to a different grade because you were there X years," he said.

Focusing on teachers, he said there were still problems in disciplining and dismissing them despite procedures being put in place three years ago.

"In every walk of life you are going to have people who get burned out. There are people being carried, who are not the best of performers.

"But there comes a time... children get one go at education and they can't have that squandered by somebody who just can't perform."

He claimed that both Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and the teaching unions had come to an understanding.

"I know Ruairi has very clear views on that. And the unions do now – there is a greater understanding of the need to have people move out of the way if they can't perform to the required standards. I think that is going to happen anyway now. I think that there is a new realisation."

Mr Howlin also said there will be clear performance measurement systems in place to identify problem teachers. When pressed on whether this meant dismissing bad teachers, he said: "If necessary."

Speaking about the public service generally, Mr Howlin said his greatest frustration was that decisions being made at the top were not being implemented by managers on the ground. "There is not a uniform quality of management. Some of them are well paid but are not delivering, and we need to address that.

Mr Howlin also said there would be a new, voluntary redundancy scheme in the new year.

He said every line department has been told to identify areas where there were surplus staff, who could be offered a voluntary redundancy package – or else be redeployed.

"I intend to work to move on that immediately in the new year. The first offering will be 2,500 redundancies within the public service. The ones that have been identified first up, are 1,500 in the HSE, the vast bulk of whom are administrators. There are others in education and in agriculture who are surplus to need."

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