At the end of January 2022, the department changed the terms under which online teacher professional development courses operate without consultation. The department has set out that all online courses must contain eight hours of synchronous (real-time) learning and they also must be completed within a 2 week time period. See here for more details.
Below is the text of the communication which I sent to the Minister for Education with regards to this. I would encourage all teachers to make similar contact:
Dear Minister Foley,
I am a primary school teacher who was very disappointed to learn of yet another attempt by the Department of Education to make our jobs more difficult by changing the requirements for teacher summer courses. It is a testament to the dedication of teachers that at present, we engage in professional development, which we have to pay for ourselves, whilst on our holidays! In no other profession would this be acceptable.
Instead of moving towards a model where teacher professional development is made more accessible to teachers as part of their working day and paid for by the employer (as it is in other professions), the department has moved in the opposite direction and made it more difficult for teachers to engage. It is actually incredulous!
Moving to a model whereby online courses must have at least 8 hours of synchronous learning will make it impossible for many teachers to engage in CPD, which up until now they have been willingly doing despite the fact that they have to fund it themselves and do it during their holidays. Many teachers complete their summer courses in the evening when their children have gone to bed, or when they get home in the evening from doing summer provision. In many cases you will be forcing teachers to choose between upskilling and doing summer provision for children with significant additional educational needs. Some of the best summer courses I have completed have been entirely asynchronous, but due to other commitments I would have not been able to complete them in real time or in a 2 week time period. Excellent CPD opportunities will now be seriously curtailed for teachers.
Why was there no consultation with the INTO on this decision? What evidence is there that there needs to be a synchronous element to summer courses for them to be effective? Why does the department have such distain for teachers that our terms and conditions of employment are being eroded at every turn? Why is there such a lack of trust from the department in teachers that we are deemed not capable of engaging in professional learning without there being a real time element?
As I said in my email to you when your department recently attempted to curtail career breaks for teachers, further eroding the terms and conditions of teachers’ employment will exacerbate the current teacher shortage. Teachers across Ireland are burnt out from years of constant increases in our responsibilities and workload, huge increases in students with complex SEN which we are expected to manage with non existent support from the HSE, managing crisis after crisis in school (including the pandemic), and constant teacher bashing in the media.. The job has become a thankless one, and you should be looking to increase the attractiveness of the profession, not diminishing it.
Update – 14th February 2023:
The Department announced that they have reversed some of the decisions that were made without consultation with teachers and the asynchronous model of summer courses will remain in place for summer 2023. See here for more info Well done to everyone who contacted them. It is clear that push back from teachers and unions on these unfair and unjustified changes does work.