Don’t give teachers a Covid bonus, instead spend the money on support


I wake up and, as is my bad habit, check Twitter. I face an unusual level of denigration of teachers – even by Irish standards.

“The majority of teachers did nothing. “Catch, catch, catch.” So goes my Twitter thread.

Shortly after, I find the source of the problem. All three teachers’ unions have reportedly said we should be included in any Covid bonus payout due to our ‘extraordinary efforts’. The Twitter headline reads: “Teachers ask to be included in Covid-19 bonus payouts.”

Language matters. Who are these teachers who make these requests? Not me. Not just any teacher I know. I scan the article. The unions admit that no formal discussions have taken place, so I guess no real consultation with teachers has taken place either.

Unions, please read the play. Newspapers, please refine your headlines.

Extraordinary efforts

I have no interest in receiving a financial reward for the work I have done on Covid. I did not enter my profession for the money. I went there because I love young people and I love my subject.

Unions claim teachers have made “extraordinary efforts” on Covid. Well, we did. But other people have done it too, in various ways. As a country, we are traumatized. We have lost loved ones, spent months without seeing friends, without causal contact, without occasional closeness. Fortunately, we are now entering a period of repair. We need to look to the future together, not destroy each other.

And we will end up crashing. And children will be at the center of this conflict.

Research conducted by the University of Sussex in 2017, using data from more than 10,000 students, identified healthy school-family relationships as a predictor of academic success. The impact of poor relations between teachers and parents has been widely studied by Ofsted in Great Britain. The conclusions are unequivocal.

What teachers are really interested in is increasing funding for children – the children we work with, the people we care about.

The teachers are really interested in the fact that we have few carbon monoxide monitors, that we have no air filters and no antigen test. Teachers fear their class sizes are too large. Schools are struggling without school buildings or sports facilities.

Teachers are unhappy that we have the lowest education funding rates in the OECD. We are shocked to learn that Carmona School in Co Dublin, which welcomes students with learning disabilities, is losing therapists as their 37 children rely so heavily on them for their safety and well-being. These are things that bother teachers. We are on the children’s side.

Rights and reform

Paul Crone, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, presented a survey last week to the Oireachtas indicating that 65% of teachers were in favor of a comprehensive reform of the Leaving Certificate. This is what we are talking about. We are concerned to read in international polls that Irish students are more anxious than their foreign peers.

We fear that our primary schools are in violation of human rights because we do not offer any alternative to young children during religion lessons. We worry when religion infiltrates the teaching of non-religious subjects. We are concerned that our profession is not diverse enough because we demand that so many teachers share a Catholic ethic and that all primary school teachers are fluent in Irish. These are the topics we are discussing.

I am more than frustrated with the disconnect I see between these headlines and the staff room in which I work.

We are a country in debt. In total, more than 48 billion euros – borrowed money – were released between 2020 and 2022. Our children will inherit this bill, a climate crisis, a lack of housing and a inadequate education and health service. As a teacher, this is what I would like our national headlines to talk about. This is where I would like to see the money go.

Ireland has been named the world’s best for Covid resilience after a ‘surprising turnaround’. Over 90% of our adult population has chosen to be vaccinated. We got closer. This is the legacy we should want to leave behind. This should be what generations after us hear us talk about – not this nonsense about teachers asking for money when those requests were not made.

The state should keep its money for long-term investments and appropriate support for our most vulnerable. What better bonus could there be than this?


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