The COVID19 Pandemic is the paramount threat to our society. Our collective action is needed to rally around efforts to preserve resources and lives. Unity, care, and inclusion are the answers in this crisis.
This is why the persistent exclusion of teachers and students first noted in this press release 22 March 2020 from the week after the quarantine began is contrary to the spirit of building real solutions which include all, and it’s also dangerous. Exclusion in these times is dangerous. Safety ‘for some’ is dangerous.
With only the owners represented from the industry’s side, the current formation of the English Language Education (ELE) Working Group is against best practice in the establishment of working groups generally- which should include diversity of opinion, and represent ALL stakeholders. The Terms of Reference- the reasons this group was established- include to:
‘Determine and coordinate the policy, operational and communications actions which need to be taken to support expeditious resumption of international ELE activities (when appropriate) and to facilitate international students studying in Ireland, ensuring that Ireland remains internationally competitive in this area having regard to actions being taken by other States’Terms of Reference English Language Education Working (ELE) Group
This Working Group determines policy now. And it will determine policy for the future resumption of lessons in classrooms. Without inclusion this is planned to happen without teachers’ and students’ contributions or consent. This will lead to outcomes similar to the disaster we saw in the Early Childhood Education sector, where civil servants guided by business owners developed exclusionary solutions which did not consider the people and lives affected. We need to be at that table if we want to stay in ELT.
As we have already seen the current make up cannot enforce best practices in our absence. Under the disinterested eye of QQI our students have been misused by the de facto abandonment of our sector’s base quality standards. ICOS’s survey and that of Fiachra Ó Luain have noted among dozens of systemic issues which need dialogue and inclusion to stop dramatic declines in quality or complete abandonment of quality of standards.
This drop-off includes absurd student-teacher-ratios (52-1 in some online lesson provision; time monitored access to apps in others) mentioned by the students in surveys. These surveys are their only way to publicly note the terrible changes owners have been able to impose on them without political representatives or a student union. Teachers and students must be included in the English Language Education Working Group. Please send the letter below to your representatives today.
These problems can be traced back to this exclusion of teachers and students- the only two voices who demand the retention of quality standards in ELE in Ireland. But there is more that is happening directly affecting teachers’ lives: Jobs are lost because of owners pressure Academic Managers and DOS workers to take over online teaching roles and and take jobs away from teachers. This can be attributed to exclusion too- as can the fall in quality of student-school relations. This has led directly to the necessary for formation of the COVID Ireland English Language Student Solidarity group and the long-needed establishment of the English Language Students’ Union.
Teachers who are concerned about the closure/reopening of schools, loss in quality, loss of pay due to improper use or rejection of the Wage Subsidy Scheme have come together to write the letter below to be sent by English Language Teachers, active or inactive, to their TDs and Senators.
Please copy this text and send it to your representatives in the Oireachtas. Feel free to add us and your union in copy.
ELT Advocacy Ireland Organisers
Dear <title> <name>
English Language Teachers (ELTs) demand immediate teacher-led representation on the Covid-19 Working Group for the English Language Education (ELE) sector chaired by the Department of Education and Skills.
Please ask the Minister for Education Joe McHugh to include teachers and students as stakeholders in the active COVID-19 Working Group for the ELE sector. For a safe and orderly restoration of this sector, it is vital that all stakeholders, teachers, students and unions, are given a representative and a place on the COVID-19 ELE Working Group. Further information on the Working Group is available here: https://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Press-Releases/2020-press-releases/PR20-03-22.html
ELTs are the primary custodians of Ireland’s well-established reputation as an ELE destination. We are uniquely positioned to inform discussions. Issues currently impacting ELE students include their safety, the loss of agreed quality standards, and violations to students’ consumer rights, directly affecting our work, the students’ experience, and our valuable national reputation as an ELE destination.
Many school owners have not availed of the Wage Subsidy Scheme, instead placing teachers on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment with little to no engagement. Owners are currently privileged to be included on the Working Group, despite not engaging with teachers as Minister Pat Breen, Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation instructed in November 2019, when following the Labour Court’s recommendation, he pronounced himself “satisfied that the proposed establishment order (for a sectoral Joint Labour Committee) will assist in the promotion of harmonious industrial relations”. We hope the active, integral role of English Language Teachers in the ELE sector is sustained by the Department of Education and Skills.
There are also grave concerns about how English Language schools will reopen. Even prior to Covid-19, interim regulations were often not observed by school owners. The state must engage with all stakeholders in the sector. Opportunities provided by the Government’s ‘Roadmap and Safety Protocol’ may only be fully explored and utilized if teacher stakeholders are included.