Include Teachers & Students in the English Language Education Working Group: Form letter for Oireachtas representatives


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.

In Solidarity

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:

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.



To the DOS in COVID-19: Don’t Teach.


To the Directors of Studies and people Academic Management roles in ELT in Ireland:

Don’t teach classes for your school’s students during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Don’t do your teachers work and put them out of work. Our only job is teaching.

When you teach online classes so the boss can lay us off you make unemployment happen.

As teachers working in a strange new context we actually need all that support and CPD but on some new stuff. Huge numbers of unpaid hours are happening because this new world is weird and changes are happening so frequently. We need support and response. You can’t give that if you are teaching well.

Who else needs support and response? Students. More now than before.

So that’s another massive reason to say to your fellow academic management staff: ‘don’t teach’. It’s bad for the school.

But number one, from a professional and equally from a labour point of view, when you teach classes you weaken teachers’ abilities to be teachers because you deny them the link to their work and their role in the school. We aren’t saying it’s constructive dismissal. But it weakens the teaching professionals in your institution in many ways.

Please do that other thing that you were chosen to do- not put teachers who want to work, and who can work, out of work.
-Do the online teaching and learning research around language acquisition.
-Explore the tech options used in other districts and disciplines.
-Be available to other working staff members, working teachers, those who can not teach now but remain connected to your school and of course the students.
-Plan return options.
-Do a payroll study.
-Set up three or four staff teachers with Health and Safety courses
-Reach out… but don’t put us out of work and into unemployment sooner than necessary.

Bottom line: If you are a manager, please manage. If there is one thing we need in this crisis it’s people who find and deliver answers properly to the people who are teaching and learning. Your roles are important. So don’t take your teachers’ roles and their jobs.

Don’t you have something better to do- to help us all do what we do better?

CLOSED SURVEY: COVID-19 Initial Survey Questions


This survey was a pilot survey. It has been taken up by the ELT Branch of Unite the Union (Ireland). Thank you for participating. This survey is now closed. 7 April 2020

If you were working in ELT in Ireland at the time of COVID-19 Crisis, please email a your answers to these questions to eltadvocacy at You don’t have to answer them all. We are just trying to get a fuzzy picture of the sector as it experienced by people involved in our sector.

We are looking for about 10 responses from outside Dublin and within. Answers will not be shared without explicit permission asked and received.

Responses will be compiled to shape further study and strategies.

Thank you and stay safe

ELT Advocacy Ireland Organisers


This survey was a pilot survey. It has been taken up by the ELT Branch of Unite the Union (Ireland). Thank you for participating. This survey is now closed. 7 April 2020

1. What was your situation? (accommodation/experience/employer/roles/affiliation)

2. How was your school doing in the first half of the month? Students? Staff? Conditions? Pay?

3. How were you notified that there would be a change?

4. What arrangements were proposed for students and classes?

5. What arrangements were proposed for you as a teaching staff cohort? (teachers specifically, but all staff if known)

6. What arrangements were proposed for you as an individual?

7. What about pay on Friday 13?
What about pay on Monday 16?
What about bank holiday pay (17 March)?

8. How did you file for pay at the end of this month?

9. What has happened since for students and classes?

10. What has happened since with staff?

This survey was a pilot survey. It has been taken up by the ELT Branch of Unite the Union (Ireland). Thank you for participating. This survey is now closed. 7 April 2020

11. How are you fixed for the duration of the month? (plans/income/accommodation/responsibilities)

12. What about the ideas and proposals to teach online for your school or otherwise during the crisis?

13. What would you like to see happen?

14. What’s the current situation with your school / classes / students / job?

15. Have you heard of the Employer COVID-19 Refund Scheme?

16. Have you heard of the inter-departmental and inter-agency Covid-19 Working Group for the English language education sector?

17. Has your union or teacher’s association been of help?

18. Have you contacted anyone in government about the sector as of yet? Who?

19. Any other comments or questions or ideas

20. How do you feel?

This survey was a pilot survey. It has been taken up by the ELT Branch of Unite the Union (Ireland). Thank you for participating. This survey is now closed. 7 April 2020

From the first ELT picket in Ireland for 30 years*


When we first started ELT Advocacy Ireland, we learned as much as we could about ELT labour history… and we only learned about one strike in Dublin -and it was in the 1980s. Since then, despite all the trouble of the College Closure Crisis from 2014-15, there had never been a picket on an English Language Teaching organisation.

23 September 2019 marked a change. That Monday, after months of attempts to talk with management formally and informally, after simple demonstrations of solidarity, and after letters and pre-notified one-hour stoppages the Delfin teachers did the most serious thing workers can do to support each other. They notified their colleagues and owner that they were going on a work stoppage to picket their own workplace to get what they need to make their work there safe and worthwhile again. Their demands as we saw in our last post remain: 1. formal recognition of their union 2. fair increase in pay in line with cost of living 3. an end to unpaid work and the dole at Christmas.

If you ever go on strike, we hope it’s with a crew that support each other like Delfin’s team do.

23 September 2019. The first Irish ELT work stoppage of this century.

Below is a comment we publish with permission from the writer, Trevor Coonan, a Delfin Teacher.

‘Excuse the haphazard selfie (below). It was another brilliant, energizing morning on our picket.

This picket is about union recognition (recommended in the [Patrick] King report), an end to unpaid work (8 hour day means 6 hours pay), unpaid prep time, a living wage, and essentially for the employers in this industry to grow up and stop acting like tefl teaching is just a summer thing, or what we do before my book is finished/ Hollywood comes calling/ I get a real job.

This job we do is a real job.

We create and foster value and help new members of our society to find their voice, feet and way.

There’s a lot of profit to be made and well-treated workers will put more bums on seats, increase the profits and make Ireland THE place to come for English and a great quality of life.
No one really says it, but I for one am sometimes apprehensive. It’s a daunting task.

We need your support.

Teachers, join a union. Mobilise. Fight for what you deserve. If we all stand together, who knows?

If you need better pay, conditions and maybe a bit of dignity, join us. Please. Dont wait for someone else.

Contact Unite and get in.’

30 September 2019. Trevor down in front with the fully committed the staff of Delfin Dublin on the picket where they are fully committed to a sustainable future for all of us in ELT in Ireland. #SupportDelfinTeachers

These teachers are doing historic work. They are making teaching English in Ireland a safer, more democratic, more inclusive profession. They are The Best Thing Happening In ELT In Ireland Today.

Here’s the thing: we have just learned that the next day of strike action has been announced. It’s another first: Full Day Strike. Get this message out and make an impact on the internet, but make sure you make some noticeable difference to these teachers: Post solidarity selfies; Talk about it in your staff room and school; Send donuts (Well done, JS & crew); Send a letter of support to Unite this today/tomorrow; Show up on…

Monday 7 October 2019 // 8am-6pm // Delfin Language School // 2 Parnell Sq East

Make a plan to be there for lunch too. Bring your bike or borrow one to beat traffic or sign up for DublinBikes just for this event. It matters. Let’s win this with them for all of us.

‘Picnic on the Picket!’ – committee member from the ELT Branch of Unite

Let’s #SupportDelfinTeachers in real ways. Join your union and be there on Monday.

[*Please note: There was a picket on MEC on Harcourt Street by MEC and NCBA staff on 16 April 2015 as a result of owner Tauseef Sarwar’s non-payment of wages.

This led to student self organisation by Mexican and Brazilian students. MEC Student Union was formed when students learned that their tuition was not being used to pay salaries. The schools were the 14th and 15th schools to close overnight leaving students and teachers stranded.

MEC Student Union and ELT Advocacy Ireland organisers combined their efforts to organise the REGULATE NOW March which took place on 5 May 2015 finally pressuring government (Labour Ed. Min. Jan O’Sullivan) into action.

Thank you to DMcC for the reminder.]

‘Is anyone else fed up?’ Delfin says stop.


One year on, these English Language Teachers have stopped work.

This week one year ago at a staff meeting the teachers of Delfin were given some bad news by management.

They all felt pretty despondent, but, that was just the way things were.

Management left the staff room.

Two teachers shuffled over and quietly closed the door.

They turned around and asked ‘Is anyone else fed up with the way we’re treated? I’ve no idea what we can do about it but I’m sick of doing nothing’.

Today, Monday 30 September 2019, they are standing up for themselves, and they’re standing up for TEFL teachers throughout Ireland.

If you’d like to find out how they got here, contact us and we’ll organise an informal meet-up to tell you the story so far and answer any questions you may have.

English Language Teachers unionised through Unite the Union on a picket at Delfin Language School exercising their legal rights to stop work because of unanswered grievances. 23 September 2019
Delfin Teachers Standing Up For Themselves …and for all of us. 23/09/2019 [Image: UnitetheUnionROI 23.09.19]

5 things you can do to support your fellow English Language Teachers in Delfin

  1. Send a solidarity selfie to your ELT sisters and brothers at Delfin or stop by the picket at 2 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1 from 9 to 12:00 at Delfin Monday 30 September. Do this with a fellow teacher.
  2. Send an old fashioned letter of support and solidarity to the union office 55-56 Middle Abbey Street, North City, Dublin 1. Also do this with a fellow teacher if possible. Let them know that teachers around the country and the world support our fellow ELTs.
  3. Re-post and reply to messages about the teachers actions, especially Unite the Union Ireland, the @eltunite insta, our FB and Twitter and anything by TEFL Workers’ Union who work in Delfin London have organised a London support demo near Delfin London(!!!) to coincide with our people here in Dublin.
  4. See photos and the list of Delfin demands here on’s page on the Delfin work stoppages
  5. Talk about it tomorrow and don’t forget Delfin is the first school to be driven to picket since the 1980s.

What do they want? (read this letter)
When do they want it? (now)

For photos etc from the first picket at an ELT school in Ireland since the 1980s see

Be a part of Climate Strike on 20 September


As an English Language Teacher you can be part of the Global Climate Strike on Friday 20 September 2019… whether in Ireland or working abroad… whether you are in a union or not. (You should be in a union, of course, and you should be one of ‘the Environment People’ at your school.)

This website has a lot of good ideas on how you and yours can participate and get more people at your workplace to participate- including the boss!

The three main steps are copied here are from this link:


Step 1: Getting started

Host a lunchtime discussion or use a newsletter, noticeboard or email list at work to share information about the Global #ClimateStrike. Some employers require notice of such actions so do this through appropriate channels for your workplace.
Try to kick off a conversation about the connections between the climate crisis and your sector.  
Propose some ways that you and fellow employees could join the climate strike and decide together what you want to do. 
If you have a union at your workplace, approach your union representative for help to gather collective support and ideas.
Don’t underestimate the power you have to inspire your friends and colleagues if you’re passionate about this moment. And you could invite a local school striker to speak to your colleagues and plan with you – contact them via #FridaysForFuture

Step 2: Put a proposal or resolution to your employer

Once you’ve got an initial plan and interest, make a proposal to your employer, outlining how and why your workplace should join the #ClimateStrike. Negotiate an arrangement that will work for everyone and remember that a goal of the Global Climate Strikes is to encourage activism and disrupt business as usual, everywhere, and force politicians to act with urgency to address the climate crisis. 

Step 3: Publicise your employers’ support 

Once your employer has agreed to support staff participating, ask them to communicate this widely to everyone, through staff newsletters, emails, on their website and social media channels etc. 
Put up posters/distribute flyers everywhere. Invite colleagues to do the same through their networks.  Put together a press release to the local media using this Media Toolkit

Post selfies or group photos on social media using the hashtag #climatestrike to let school strikers know your workplace is joining in and to inspire other employers to do the same. 

That’s pretty clear. A half dozen practical ideas then follow on how to organise something worthwhile at your school, no matter what the scale. Go check out the site and commit.

There are loads of downloadable graphics and stuff too.

These are all feasible ideas even in small businesses like ELT Organisations. Even ones with implicit gigantic carbon footprints, like our dear ELT Organisations.

Most owners and managers would love to at least give a nod towards building a greener world and a greener Ireland.

This is not a risky topic, teachers, so ask students and staff how they could participate. Bring it up a your teachers’ meeting this week and in the staff room.

There are more clear ideas for participating here.

Get your students and school admin involved too. Let’s all do our bit and remember that teachers have a role to play in showing people their power to be active for change. Be a part of it this week by starting those conversations. And share what you are going to do here.

FAQs for English language teachers in Ireland


How do you become an English language teacher?

To become an English language teacher in Ireland, you need to have a bachelor’s degree (Level 7 on the National Qualification Framework) in any subject. You will also need to have an ACELS-recognised teaching qualification, most typically the CELT or CELTA. The full details can be seen here in this ACELS regulations document. ACELS is the accreditation body for language schools in Ireland (similar to the British Council in the UK). If you don’t have these exact qualifications but you have an equivalent, see page 23 of the above document. Schools with students under the age of 18 will require you to have Garda vetting. This is usually done through the school when you start working. Please note that if your school is affiliated with Marketing English in Ireland (MEI, the lobbying group of English language schools in Ireland), your vetting form will be processed through this group. Last thing to note is that you don’t need to have teaching experience to get a job.

Where can I do a CELT/CELTA?

The ACELS website has the approved list of CELT course providers at this link. There is no difference between the two courses in the eyes of ACELS as they both contain 120 hours of course training as well as 6 hours of observed teaching practice. Internationally, the CELTA is better recognised but you can explain to potential employers that the two courses have the same level of assessment. You must complete a portfolio of assignments as part of the course. There isn’t a prescribed outline for the CELT course so schools will focus on different aspects of teacher training. The quality of the course can also vary from provider to provider, so do plenty of research before putting a significant investment in a course. This CELTA course syllabus will give you a fair overview of what you can expect from the CELT programme. You will likely have to do an interview with the head of the course before your application is accepted. Bear in mind that teacher training courses are profit-making for private language schools. If you’re just doing this course to get summer work, bear in mind that there are lots of jobs you can do without investing approximately €1,000 and 4 weeks of your time.

celt certificate
CELT Certificate
CELTA certificate
CELTA Certificate. Source.

Typical wage for an English language teacher

Paid work

You might have heard that the wage of an English language teacher in Ireland is between €13 and €25 per hour, with €18 the average. This sounds very appealing and certainly sounds better than a minimum wage job. However, there are several important factors that must be taken into account here. Economist Michael Taft did a brief analysis of the actual wages of English language teachers in 2017, using very limited data published by MEI which stated that the “total gross wage bill” for the sector was €49.5 million. There was no further segmentation of that figure so it’s unclear what working hours were calculated (full or part-time working weeks), or whether PRSI is included in this figure (which some workers do not receive). Finally, it is assumed that managerial staff wages are included in this figure which will not be a reflection of the average teacher’s wages.

Unpaid work

Included in Taft’s analysis was unpaid work. A significant feature of English language teaching in Ireland is unpaid planning and preparation work (non-contact work). This is a cornerstone of Unite’s 10-Point Charter for English language teachers. The majority of teachers are paid hourly and are not paid for mandatory professional development sessions, staff meetings or inspection preparation work. In terms of non-contact hours, some schools offer a blanket payment of €10 – €15 per week for non-contact work, including planning of classes, preparation of materials and all required administration work. Other schools don’t pay anything except the hours of lesson delivery. This work includes:

  • Writing a weekly lesson plan and scheme of work (possibly with a team teacher). One copy must be filed away and another displayed in the classroom (you’re responsible for the paperwork)
  • Designing and holding weekly tests, correcting tests and recording results
  • Setting and correcting homework, providing written and oral feedback
  • Supplementing coursebook material with online material (written, audio, visual) finding, preparing and bringing these materials into class
  • Taking students on social activities and preparing educational materials for the trip

If you’re teaching 20 hours per week (which is the average), that works out at 4 hours per day. So if you’re on €15 per week flat rate for non-contact hours, that works out at €3 per day for any work you do outside the classroom. If you’re spending two hours a day on this work, you’re getting €1.50 per hour. Before tax.

Unite Charter 2X
Unite’s 10 Point Charter

As a new teacher, you can expect to spend at least 1 hour planning for every hour-long class. So you’ll be working 40 hours but paid for the 20 contact hours only. In time, you will get faster at lesson planning but until then you’ll have to put up with a lot of unpaid work. It’s built-in exploitation. Surveys have found that on average, teachers will spend between 4 – 6 hours per week on non-contact work, but many teachers report spending between 7 – 13 hours (ELT Manchester survey, 2019, forthcoming). The majority of teachers are not paid for this work.

Actual wage of an ELT in Ireland

With all of this in mind, Taft calculated the average hourly rate of an English language teacher to be €9.63. This is below the minimum wage which is currently €9.80 per hour. Compare this with the starting wage at ALDI which is €11.70 (the living wage) and is not a role which involves unpaid daily planning or administrative work. Indeed with ALDI, there are clear opportunities for progression, payscales and the opportunity for real advancement within the company which is not a feature of most English language schools.

Finding a job as an English language teacher

It’s not that difficult to find a job as an English language teacher in Ireland during the summer months. Job advertisements can be found on, ELT Ireland jobs board and the job aggregate listing site, Indeed. Be aware that the number of teachers increases 100% in the summer. If you want to continue working as an ELT after the summer, you are not guaranteed a job, despite what your school might imply. Sometimes on a teacher training course you will be told that if you “get your foot in the door” in a school by doing “a couple of hours here and there” (no matter how inconvenient or low-paying it is for you), a full-time job will emerge. This is definitely not the case for every teacher. It’s true that many schools have a high turnover of staff and that some teachers hired for the summer will be lucky enough to keep their job into the autumn and winter – but do not assume that this will be you. Unless you have a written contract stating exact terms of employment, you should assume that when the peak season is over, you will lose your job. This is something that many teachers don’t realise about teaching English and one of the reasons for high precarity in the sector.

A typical advertisement for summer-time English language teachers. BE CAREFUL

Interview for English language teaching job

How to prepare for an English language teaching job

Usually there will be one interview with an Academic Manager, or Assistant Director of Studies (ADOS). You will be asked to bring your bachelor’s degree certificate or transcript as well as your CELT/A certificate. You might be asked to prepare a sample lesson plan in advance. You will be asked about your teaching experience or teaching practice from your training course. Be prepared to speak about specific examples of how you handled situations or what you would do in such a situation. This is a guide to some typical questions you may be asked.

Interviewing the interviewer

What kind of questions do you need to ask in an interview for an English language teaching job? This post outlines some of the questions that you should pose to a potential employer, including questions about contracts, holiday pay and hours of work. You should be aware that some schools will not be forthcoming about the answers to these standard interview questions. Be aware that if you appear overly interested in your working conditions, you may be less likely to secure a position. For the last 3 years, English language teachers have been getting increasingly vocal about poor working conditions in the industry. Be aware that teachers have lost jobs for speaking about issues in their workplace and that this discrimination (while ostensibly illegal) is rife as many teachers have been on zero-hour or fixed-term contracts, meaning that as soon as a teacher became problematic for the school, hours of work could suddenly disappear and you are out of a job.

Warnings for English language teachers

The joys of teaching English

Teaching English is a role that many teachers enjoy as it can be hugely fulfilling, both personally and professionally. You will meet many wonderful students from all around the world who will open your mind and challenge you every day. You will develop relationships with students as you help them achieve their goals and it can be satisfying to see their progression over time. Developing as a teacher can be very enjoyable too. One day you’re a newly qualified teacher writing full-length whiteboard plans in case you forget how to teach the present perfect and the next day you’re able to spontaneously rattle off the uses of the future perfect continuous because you’ve grown so much in confidence. When you start off as a teacher, your lesson plans will take hours. After 6 years of teaching, I can do a full week’s worth of lesson plans in my head. There’s no limit to how creative you can be in the classroom and you typically have a good deal of autonomy in your lesson plans. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll learn, develop and grow. It can be the best job in the world.

The ELT classroom can be wonderful

The dark side of teaching english

But unfortunately, as A2dez excellently puts it, it’s also “the best shit job.” This stems from issues of low pay, lack of security, popularity politics, uncomfortable teaching environments, badly-equipped schools and poor communication with management. The industry has not made meaningful steps towards improving the lives of teachers. It’s not unique to Ireland, either. This outstanding article from Dr Phiona Stanley outlines the lived experiences and career trajectories of ELTs in the private teaching industry in Australia. It makes for disturbing reading. It highlights how the better you get as an English language teacher, the harder it will be to get a well-paying job. This is because schools simply will not pay you commensurate with experience. This goes the same for any teachers with master’s degrees in Teaching English (which cost minimum €4,000 and take at least 1 year) or a DELTA (minimum of €3,000 and takes on average 2 years). Further qualifications have no significant effect on rate of pay in Ireland. The highest you will earn as a teacher per hour is €26.

The history of ELT in Ireland

Nobody in ELT has a safe job. In the college closure crisis of 2014/2015 in Ireland, we saw how established and supposedly ‘safe’ schools were closed literally overnight, leaving both new and experienced teachers out of work and in many cases, out of wages. Look at what happened in Grafton College on December 1st last year. Staff are still waiting for their wages to be repaid. It was not the only school to close last year, it was actually the third. It’s not a safe industry to work in, and that’s why teachers are fighting so hard to ensure it becomes viable.

Unite ELT protest
Unite ELT protest against bogus self-employment, 2017. Photo: Alex Klemm

Know what English language teaching is really like

It’s important to know what you want from this industry. If you’re looking to gain a basic qualification to enable you to teach abroad as a backpacker, then you’d be better off doing an online course. If you’re looking for a summer job, ELT might seem like a good fit, but you’re investing a huge amount of time and money into a niche qualification for a job that won’t give you ROI. If you’re looking for a permanent job, you have to understand that the word ‘permanent‘ doesn’t exist in ELT. It’s almost impossible to find a school that pays adequately for contact and non-contact hours, and this is only one of the major issues. Public sector teachers teach a maximum of 22 hours per week, in part because teaching can be emotionally exhausting. This is not recognised or remunerated in ELT, where you could be working 30 contact hours per week. The majority of schools do not pay sick pay so when you eventually become drained, you won’t be paid when you need to take a day off. If you do manage to find a job, your wage will likely rise by a maximum of €10 per hour over the next 15 years. You will be on contracts that include the phrase “The school reserves the right to take away hours at any time owing to lack of student numbers.” You will never be safe in the industry in its current form and if you’re planning to get into it, make sure you plan your exit strategy.

Want to help improve the ELT industry?

It’s not all bad news! There are some excellent groups working hard to improve the conditions in English language teaching. ELT Advocacy recommends that all teachers be part of a union. Unite the Union is the only Irish union with a dedicated ELT Branch run by teachers. They have done extraordinary work over the last few years for teachers, including the successful lobbying of members of the Seanad to add amendments to the QQA Bill 2018 which will include extra protections for teachers. Whether you’re a new or experienced teacher, the best form of professional development you can do is get involved with these groups.

Good luck, and if you have any questions, email us at, find us on Facebook or Twitter or leave a comment below.

Useful links

Unite ELT Branch

Join Unite here


TEFL Guild

TEFL Equity Advocates

ELT Manchester


Mental health in ELT

Women in ELT

2019 Resolutions for ELTs


You’ve made it mid-way through January, congratulations! If you’ve made any resolutions, have you stayed with them? It’s possible that, like me, you’ve forgotten about your resolutions entirely, so here is a fun article to add more to your life.

Why bother with resolutions?

Excellent question. Today, January 21st, is dubbed ‘Blue Monday’ in order to give clickbait headlines a chance to shine in the dreary post-Christmas gloom of winter.

I hate maths. Photo credit.

According to The Telegraph, these confusing and horrible reminders of Leaving Cert Honours maths represent the following:

W = weather

D = debt

d = monthly salary

T = time since Christmas

Q = time since failing our new year’s resolutions

M = low motivational levels

Na = the feeling of a need to take action

I’m already feeling crap, do I have to do maths as well?

Yes, it’s marketing nonsense, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining and informative. Let’s look at this formula more closely to see how it applies to ELT in Ireland

Weather: Pah, as if anything can be done about the weather in this damp and marshy isle.

Debt: See next point

Monthly salary: Now this one is where we can help. For the last 3 years, there has been a concentrated effort by teachers, driven by Unite and supported by ELT Advocacy to improve working conditions for English language teachers in Ireland. Some remarkable events have transpired lately, including the appointment of a mediator by Mary Mitchell- O’Connor to discuss issues in the unregulated ELT sector. Mitchell- O’Connor stated:

My key objective is to ensure that Ireland has an English language sector that we can all have confidence in … Teachers and staff are a central element in ensuring the quality of that educational provision., 13th January, 2019

We are being acknowledged as actual stakeholders in our industry now! From the former education minister refusing to even acknowledge that we were teachers, to being a driving force for a mediation process in which school owners and teachers will finally be on a more equal footing. When one considers the history of ELT in Ireland, and the unchecked power of the language schools over teachers, this is a big, big win. Next stop – better wages?

Time since Christmas: Yes, it’s very sad, but there are Easter eggs in Tesco already.

Never resolve to give up on chocolate

Time since failing our New Year’s Resolutions: Fear not! As mentioned, this post will bestow 7 brand new resolutions on you, whither wanted or not, in a beautiful infographic format, to make it easier to remember.

Low motivational levels: This one can blight us all. What’s the point in trying to change things, it’s not going to improve, etc., etc. Well let’s look at the example of Grafton College in December. Teachers whose unpaid wages amounted to €75,000 were literally abandoned by the school owner and left unemployed just before Christmas in a city with one of the highest rents in the world in the middle of a seasonal dip in employment. We were furious. We protested. We made a huge noise. A fundraiser was set up, and we donated in droves. A fundraising quiz was organised by Unite which was well-attended and raised a lot of money. We wrote and shared articles, we urged our colleagues to get involved. And this did not go unnoticed. Unite’s stellar efforts in lobbying the Seanad over the last two years on the QQI legislation meant we had many allies who fought our case on the legislative floor – against the government who voted us down.

And it worked. The Grafton teachers, some of them new to campaigning, some of them not, were present in the public gallery when the bill passed by a single vote and moved on to the next stage of Oireachtas. That’s pretty fucking motivational, in my view. That a group of teachers can achieve actual legislative change to ensure that the industry stops treating its workers like disposable nothings.

It doesn’t take much to set things in motion

Last one- Need to take action: Well you know what you’ve got to do now, right? Start by looking at the resolution chart to see what you’ve done and where you need to begin. Join Unite here. Go to the branch meetings, vote on issues, bring forward motions, use your skills to enact change. Put in the work now to ensure you’re never in a situation like the Grafton College teachers, or like the other 20 plus schools that closed suddenly. It takes sustained political action to make our industry secure, decent and viable.

Have conversations in your staff room (if safe to do so), with other teachers, including newly-qualified teachers and teachers new to teaching in Ireland. Start taking detailed records of the work you’re doing outside the hourly wage that you’re paid. Admin work, planning, printing, researching – that is work, and if you’re not on a salary, you deserve to be paid for it. Is your school’s “admin rate” enough for the work you’re doing? Take notes, encourage other teachers to do the same. Go and read The Payment of Wages Act 1991. Be informed on your rights.

Get involved with ELT Advocacy – we’re always looking for people to get involved in the work we do supporting the branch. Writers, artists, advocates, people who get shit done – if that’s you, we want you.

My ELT resolutions

Print this off, put it somewhere you can see it regularly, and monitor your progress throughout the year. Apparently it takes only 21 days to make a new habit stick, so if you can keep up any of these resolutions until at least the 11th of February, you’ll be doing well. We’ll check back in then to see how things are going.

Don’t disappoint the beautiful infographic

Featured Blog Post


We’d like to link to a great post published by A2dez, titled “‘The Best Shit Job’: My life as an English language teacher in Ireland”.

The author covers some really interesting topics about teaching English in Ireland. It covers most of the main points that we’ve all experienced as English language teachers: how we got started, losing work, the summer compared to “Autumnwinterspring”. It also covers the activities in the class, the structure of the teaching week and the people that come to learn.

It has already proved popular on Twitter, with one commenter noting that everyone thinking of doing a CELTA should read the post.

While others commended it for being realistic about the joy we feel in the classroom with our students.

It goes a long way to explaining why we want to protect this industry for ourselves and the next generation of teachers. Have a read of it, tell us what you think, share it with your colleagues, then have a think and send us your own story (we all have one).

‘The best shit job’: My life as an English language teacher in Ireland

Photo credit:

Snap Closures: My Story


Following the closure of Grafton College, we have decided to publish stories from teachers about the effects of these closures on their lives. If you want to contribute your story, please email in confidence. 

This is my story

My school closed suddenly in 2011. I had been working with them since 2003, it was my first school. As teachers, all we knew was that the numbers were dropping – the owner claimed that the Brazilian market had shut down (clearly not the case) and the Saudi Arabian students that we had were known for leaving schools as a group and going to a new one.

They had also made redundancies not long before it happened, which they did via a points scheme. Everyone gained or lost points depending on length of service, qualifications, whether they’d ever been in trouble with the manager etc. Some people quit straight away because they knew they wouldn’t have enough points to stay. This was mainly due to the new regulations at the time saying that evening classes were no longer allowed.  

Out of nowhere

Then, in the middle of the school day, a manager went around asking us all to stay for a meeting that it was “important” for us to attend. She didn’t give any hint of what was happening. During the meeting, the owner announced that they were closing – effective immediately – and not to come in the next day. We were all pretty stunned. I don’t even know how the students were informed but I met some of them over the coming days and although the office staff continued working for a while to get their certificates out to them, they were all upset and worried as well. It seemed to take a long time for some of them to even get proof that they had done a course with us.

We had to attend several redundancy meetings where the manager “gave notice”, attempting to follow some kind of employment law, but not doing it in the right way. We were told we had no right to be at any meeting of creditors. We were paid wages up to the last day, which at least was better than some people’s situations, but waited several months for the notice pay and longer for redundancy money to come through. There was no external support of any kind and the ‘meetings’ were 2 minutes each where we had to take care to go in in pairs or groups and take notes for each other because we couldn’t trust the manager not to get us to agree to something not in our best interests. We knew she was trying to rush us through the process and none of us were really thinking straight. As for the owners: one of them had already quit during the ‘points scheme’ and he opened a new college which has also since closed. The remaining owner, according to LinkedIn, is in San Francisco, and the untrustworthy manager now has a cupcake business.

Lightning strikes twice

It was May and I was lucky, I only had to sign on the dole for a short while before I got some summer cover work and something semi-permanent at another school – until that too closed down in September! This time we were informed at the start of the month, so we were prepared. It was a small school and there were only 11 students. The students were absorbed by one of the bigger schools, we were properly paid, and I signed on again until I was lucky enough to get work with two schools in October. I know many of my colleagues were not so lucky and some have left the industry entirely.

Another school that I worked at was almost as bad at first. On my first day the DoS quit suddenly and there were 3 of us new teachers that nobody knew what to do with, so it didn’t seem like that was going to last long, but luckily they did manage to sort it out and it seemed more professionally run, at least from my perspective, although a later DoS thought otherwise. I was there about 2 years, one school in the mornings and another in the afternoons, until I got a promotion and worked with one school full-time. 

My situation now

I’ve since moved to another school as a DoS. The owner here is much nicer and at least seems genuine when he expresses shock at the snap closures. But it’s still difficult to see a long-term future in the school (in any school), and very difficult to feel anything other than resignation when a teacher gets a better offer and leaves without notice. The owner makes noises about ‘loyalty’ but I’ve learned that none of us can afford loyalty, we’ve been through too many schools that haven’t been loyal to us in any way. How can we expect teachers to give their best work when they’re not feeling secure or paid well?

Teacher protections, or lack thereof

I really feel there should be as much protection for teachers as there are for students. So many of the ILEP and QQI rules seem designed to discourage schools from operating at all, rather than to improve things. They’re focusing on having the right number of hours and which levels we aren’t allowed to run, and making sure we discipline students for having low attendance and make them do a TIE exam – and then none of it matters when the student goes to GNIB because they don’t face any consequences there, but any little breach of a small rule will get us tossed off the ILEP. There’s no focus on making sure employers treat teachers well, pay them properly, give them sick pay or holiday allowance, contracts, etc. No focus on making sure the teachers don’t get all the blame when an inspection goes badly (this being mainly focused on the management area). Not even focus on making sure students don’t get thrown in the wrong level because “it’s a business and we’re not providing a class of a suitable level for less than 15 people”. Owners won’t focus on any of those things until regulations and inspectors do.

Looking ahead

I do still want to be part of the industry but it’s very difficult to feel secure in any job. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting into ELT. It is still a rewarding job in spite of it all. But I’d make sure they know that in a lot of cases, you do it for the students and not for the pay. 

By C.K.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Lesson Plan on Trade Unions in Ireland


There’s nothing better than a ready-made lesson plan. All you need to do is have a quick scan of it, decide on the bits to keep in and take out, print it off or set up the overhead projector and away you go. You might actually get to eat your lunch instead of planning if that’s the case!

This lesson plan is designed for teachers of strong intermediate/ upper-intermediate to advanced level students of English. It is set decidedly in the Irish context, but it could easily be used by teachers in other countries by comparing and contrasting. The focus is on trade unions. The crux of the lesson is three reading texts adapted from news articles on three separate trade union issues in Ireland; Dunnes Stores workers, Luas workers and English language teachers. Please feel free to edit the documents into any format you think is appropriate for your class. Similarly, feedback on this lesson plan is very welcome. What discussions emerged? What insights were made and what questions were asked? Would more lesson plans be useful for you and your class? Get in touch and let us know.

Language teaching is inherently political, unfortunately. There’s no getting away from it. We can’t divorce ourselves from the fact that English as a global language has an extremely troubling history. Even today, the issue of English as a gatekeeping device (thinking particularly about the exorbitant cost of IELTS preparation and exams, university and job requirements, or as an indicator of social status) is one which all language teachers should be aware of and draw attention to in our classes. Asking why, always. Giving a voice to injustice is a powerful thing for a teacher to do. Paulo Freire considered the only goal of education to be raise one’s consciousness, to understand the relationship between oppressed and oppressor.

“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption”                                                                                              Freire, 1970

As a teacher, you need to spend time on the language of power so that your students are given time to take in, reflect, discuss, tease out, argue, debate, consider and shape their understanding of issues of power.

Start with this lesson plan, and see where it takes you and your students. Note down any reflections you have on the lesson and share it with your colleagues. Write to us and let us know so we can share it. Use your voice to amplify others’.

The lesson plans are below in shareable Google Drive files. Student worksheets and teacher notes are included below.

Student Worksheets:

Teacher’s Notes:



Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. p. 54


by Aileen Bowe








Experienced? Qualified? Irish?


In the summer of 2016 I conducted my MA research entitled Perspectives on NNESTs: an insight into language teaching organisations (LTO) industry in Dublin. I wanted to find out different stakeholders’ perspectives concerning non-native teachers in the city through students, teachers themselves, Directors of Studies and by conducting analyses of schools’ websites.

For the purposes of this article, I decided to focus on the analysis of schools’ websites and how these portray English teachers, more specifically non-native ones. I also pose a question as to what kind of practices English Language schools in Dublin have when it comes to teachers in general.

Discrimination and hiring practices in Ireland

In the context of Ireland, some schools advertise for NESTs only. According to Bruce (2015, para.6), a degree in any area, a 100-hour TEFL course and an Irish passport would be more valuable than a NNEST with a degree in pedagogy, an MA in Applied Linguistics and “flawless English”.

Nevertheless, for Medgyes (2001, p. 432), hiring practices are “in a state of transition”. This statement is supported by Harmer (as cited in Çakir and Demír, 2013, p. 162), which asserts that until recently, it was not possible to find a non-native English speaking teacher working in English-speaking countries like Australia or the UK whereas nowadays, this scenario has changed.

The laws in Ireland prohibit discrimination and promote equality in a wide range of areas, including race, which consists of skin color, nationality or ethnic or national origin (“Equality… in Ireland”, n.d., para.8). As a matter of fact, there are laws forbidding discriminatory practices not only in this country, but also European Union. However, as my research later uncovered, some schools in Dublin state that their staff is composed of native-speakers only, which could imply discrimination against teachers who were not born in countries where English is spoken as an official language. Indeed, as the analysis conducted for this study showed, the websites and brochures of nearly one quarter of the LTOs promote nativeness as a positive characteristic of their teaching staff.

My research and school websites

Initially, I wanted to conduct research on job advertisements and how they can be discriminatory in the ELT sector. However, it was decided that due to the low number of job advertisements for English teachers in Dublin, the results would not be consistent enough and an analysis of what schools present in the public domain could be made instead. Therefore, a total of 46 school websites and brochures was considered for their content analysis. The main objective of the analysis was to investigate whether there were details which could indicate hiring practices – particularly if the institution claimed having “native-speakers only” in their staff.

The investigation shows that LTOs in Dublin list up to six different factors as major characteristics of teachers in their staff. The factors acknowledged included: experience, nativeness, TEFL qualifications, university qualifications, other educational qualifications and personality traits, such as enthusiasm and passion for teaching.

In the table below an overview of the factors found through the examination of the websites and brochures can be seen:

List of factors mentioned by LTOs in Dublin

Factors Total number of schools
Experience 16
University degree 15
TEFL qualifications 14
Other educational qualifications 12
No information on teachers 11
Nativeness 10
Personality traits 9

Results explained


Teaching experience was the most common characteristic mentioned by schools when describing the teacher who work for those institutions. One could speculate that most of these schools seem to believe that experience can be a good selling factor. Some of them state things such as “all our teachers are experienced” and “we have a team of highly experienced English language teachers”.

University degree

Out of the 46 schools, 15 bring up the fact that their teachers have university degrees. This was the second most common item in the analysis of websites and brochures conducted. Some of them make statements such as “all teachers have a primary university degree” and “all teachers are university graduates”.

TEFL qualifications

Having a TEFL qualification seems to be one of the most important characteristics of teachers in Dublin – 30.4% of schools disclose this information as a positive item. Some of the schools also mention specific qualifications such as the CELTA or an ACELS approved course.

Other educational qualifications

Some of the schools, more specifically, 26% of them, say their teachers are qualified, but do not provide any further details on their educational qualifications. This is supported by some of the descriptions found in their brochures and websites, such as “fully qualified teachers” and “we have a team of well qualified and highly experienced English language teachers”.


The fact of having a native-speaker teaching staff was the fifth most frequent factor presented by schools in Dublin, with 21.7% of LTOs presenting statements that emblazon this idea: “all teachers and staff are native English speakers”, “all our teachers are native English speakers” and “All of our teachers are Irish, Native Speakers of English”. The last one seems to exclude not only teachers who are not native speakers, but also the ones who were not born in Ireland.

Personality traits

This was the factor least mentioned in the websites and brochures analyzed. Only 19.5% of LTOs refer to features, for example: “passionate and dynamic teachers”, “our staff are chosen for their enthusiasm and experience” and “creative, dynamic English speakers”.


Taking into consideration my research questions, we can say that from this stakeholder’s perspective, the prevailing factor in common described by language teaching institutions in Dublin is teaching experience. The content analysis performed shows that nearly 35% of schools mention experience in either their websites or brochures. The second and third most cited factors were university degree and TEFL qualifications, which show that according to what schools advertise, their teaching staff is experienced and qualified.

As far as I am aware, no specific research on websites of schools operating in Dublin has been carried out and despite the results obtained by other researchers (such as Selvi (2010) and Mahboob and Golden (2013)) nativeness is not the most cited criteria in Dublin’s language schools websites and brochure. This might be because there are laws forbidding explicitly discriminatory practices in Ireland, which might impede employers from displaying such information in the public domain.

This piece of research is relevant because even though there are laws against discrimination in Ireland and the EU, schools are still advertising against non-native teachers in broad daylight. If these LTOs are doing that, one can imagine what kind of practices these schools have when it comes to teachers’ rights, fair wages, pay scales, sick pay and so many other factors affecting teachers’ professional and personal lives. We need an urgent reform in this industry, and the only way to do it is by getting together and joining a union – that’s the only way us teachers can change the status quo. I myself see this job as my profession, my career, and want employers to see it that way too.

by Bárbara Hernandes

Sources mentioned:

Bruce, S. (2015, July 13). The Importance of Being Native. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from EAPing:

Medgyes, P. (2001). When the teacher is a non-native speaker. Em M. Celce-Murcia, Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp. 429 – 442). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Çakir, H., & Demír, Y. (2013). The employability of non-native speaker teachers of English: sample cases of unfair hiring practices. International symposium on changes and new trends in education – Symposium Book Vol. 1, (pp. 159 – 163).

Equality and Non-Discrimination in Ireland. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2016, from Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission:

Selvi, A. F. (2010). All teachers are equal, but some teachers are more equal than others: Trend analysis of job advertisements in english language teaching. WATESOL NNEST Caucus Annual Review – Vol. 1, (pp. 156 – 181).

Mahboob, A., & Golden, R. (2013). Looking for Native Speakers of English: Discrimination in English Language Teaching Job Advertisements. Voices in Asia – Volume 1/1 (pp. 72 – 81). Sidney: University of Sidney.

Do you have a piece of research that you want to get out into the world? We are happy to publish articles pertaining to employment, precarity, socio-economic factors, etc., as they relate to English language teachers. Email us at in confidence.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

‘So, do you have any questions for us?’


June is traditionally the easiest month to find an English language teaching role in any of Ireland’s ELT organisations.  The number of teaching roles in Ireland goes from 1000 to 2000 for a brief two and a half months, according to a speaker at recent ELT event in Dublin. That’s a lot of interviewing.
Q: How can we jobbing ELT managers and precariously employed English language teachers use those interviews to turn those 1000 year-round jobs into 1000 real year-round jobs?
A: By asking the right questions.
Teachers in Unite the Union‘s ELT Branch put together this list. Pick a couple of questions below and ask them when the interviewer asks you ‘So, do you have any questions for us?’. If you aren’t changing schools consider this: How would your current school answer them?
(But I’m the hiring manager this year /the DOS/in a good school/getting a Delta/ Helping my DOS and she’s my friend!  Be clear about things. Don’t lose your professional cool if a another professional asks these questions about the role you are offering in the profession. To be clear: whether you are looking for fun fling summer love or an ‘English summer camp’ teacher, be clear about it. And some praise is due this year. It is great to see so many professional ads this year clearly stating they are hiring ‘for the summer’. Well-qualified experienced professionals being misled might (and should) land the offending school in the WRC. It is not ok and it should stop.)
So save this page for your next interview, if they offer you less than €22/hr, there is good reason for you go ahead and ask ’em all. In Dublin, how much are you going to be able to save if you are making less than that?
Here’s to not just breaking even one of these years…
● Is there a pay scale?
● Is there payment for CPD/non-contact hours?
● How many days sick pay are paid?
● How is holiday pay accrued and am I entitled to take it when I want?
● Are my conditions (sick/holiday pay, pay scales, payment for non contact hours etc) specified on my contract?
● Can I see a sample contract?
● How long must I be working for the company before I receive a permanent contract?
● Are my hours stated on my contract?
● Are all the hours paid at teacher’s rates?
● Is there a clear policy on bullying?
● How much notice will I get if hours are to be reduced/classes closed?
● Is that stipulated in a/the contract?
● Would this school contribute to (or pay for) my Diploma or Master’s after a certain period?
● What happens in the autumn?
Suggestions? Write to us.
I.T., thanks for your help on this list.

Teacher trainers: it’s time to talk to your trainees about unions


As colleagues around Ireland return from IATEFL in Brighton talking about the brave/ insightful/ overdue talk by this presenter or another, ELT Advocacy remembers Silvana Richardson’s brave, insightful, overdue talk about non-native English speaking teachers in 2016. Her talk inspired this article originally published in The Teacher Trainer Journal in the Spring of 2017 re-published here with the permission of the Journal. Its conclusions seem worth repeating in the shadow of the closure of our fellow teachers’ school in Limerick this month. It is aimed specifically at teacher trainers and observers on CELT, CELTA and CertTESOL courses.

At the 2016 IATEFL conference held in Birmingham, UK  Silvana Richardson’s plenary brought to light a neglected part of the ELT conversation. Instead of discussing how to help your students get wrong answers right, she asked us to think about the rights and wrongs being done to our colleagues when discriminated against by employers. In doing so she demonstrated that it is safe, and even necessary, to begin coming out about our responsibilities to each other as fellow professionals.

The talk was about employment rights: specifically, the right to be considered for a teaching job without discrimination as to your nationality. Richardson’s discussion commendably recognized the need for local, organisation-level observations and actions. It was perhaps this that made me sit up and pay close attention. This was a very different IATEFL plenary.

Though a ‘native’ speaker of English myself, the content of Richardson’s talk reflected my own experience, having played many roles in ELT in Ireland apart from ownership of a school. In management, in the classroom, and in working with the school’s promotions and activities and training teams, I noticed a constant favouritism towards English native speakers, from which of course I passively benefitted.

Richardson took the opportunity to engage her fellow professionals using European ELT’s biggest platform to advocate for our colleagues who often face discrimination. She framed ELT as work within the context of workplace rights. She talked about professional rights, by discussing the legal, practical and ethical basis of those rights. She also advocated the expectation of professionalism from management as well as respect from paying students. It rightfully earned its place in the history books as a seminal talk.

For those who could not attend the 2015 conference, IATEFL debated a request on their Facebook page to create a Special Interest Group (SIG) on ELT professionals as ‘workers’. That 2015 ‘Teachers as Workers SIG’ discussion has continued in a Google+ group ‘TAWSIG’ where TEFL Equity Advocates organiser Marek Kiczkowiak contributes, along with ELT people from around the world. His work, like Richardson’s plenary, aims to mark a change in global ELT culture.

Dublin college closures reveal schools’ relationship with teaching staff

Students are disappointed standing in front of their closed ELT school

A large well-known city centre school in Dublin shuts down unexpectedly. Students are disappointed. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

From 2014 to 2015 Dublin, Ireland saw 15 ELT school owners bow ungraciously out of the Irish private education market. They abandoned students from all over the world, taking off with their tuition fees and avoiding prosecution. The exodus has halted for the most part. But the students are still out of pocket and will never have their fees refunded. Acrimony and public protest forced new national government regulations to put an end to this for students and owners… but what about the teachers?

Where did the staff end up afterwards? When the schools began to close there was support and pity for cheated students and there were questions for errant owners but for the teachers? Like the old whiteboards, they were out on the street, hoping someone else would pick them up. It was discouraging and de-humanising to see how useless one’s continuing professional development was, when for-profit ELT was free from oversight.

So what?

What is the connection between this string of business closures in Ireland and Silvana Richardson’s pioneering talk in England? It becomes clear when you realise that English language teachers are frontline workers yet are not considered stakeholders in the for-profit ELT sector. During the College Closure Crisis we learned that in our for-profit environment, novice and veteran teachers needed active protection in the form of an informed organization that represents their voice during negotiations. The DoSs and ADoSs were not informed or prepared on how to handle closures or spot the signs that the business might be in trouble. They were either unaware of what was happening or covering for the owners.

Who advocates for the English language teachers?

Part of the reason Irish ELT staff didn’t report their concerns to the authorities may have been fear for their jobs. In other words, their precarity* kept them from doing their jobs properly. Another reason may have been that they didn’t know who would listen or who would give safe advice. This was because local regulators, ACELS, a voluntary semi-governmental body, may have appeared to staff as biased by their very long and close relationship to established schools. The sector’s older schools had always lobbied for ‘self-regulation’ too. So these ‘optional regulators*’ may have seemed to be part of the problem.

Friends in other schools were not a safe option for advice as talking ‘across’ school walls was seen as treasonous from the owner and management’s point of view. ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ How about the top: the government? But government officials don’t have time to talk to every individual who had a suspicion that their employer was conducting business illegally or was about to suddenly close a school. So who represents the teachers in times of trouble or need? When the time came for government action, government ministers expected teachers to be represented as a group at the table. They expected them to be organized… like ‘real’ teachers… in unions. Where were our unions? This was a government question to teachers when they approached their parliamentary representatives.

The big question

So, why weren’t the Irish teachers in unions?

There were many reasons why.

Sometimes it was because if the bosses found out, there was a legitimate fear that you would slowly be given fewer hours until suddenly you weren’t needed any more. Using your rights to union membership can increase your chances of discrimination in ELT. Open union membership or an attempt to unionise colleagues, perhaps even more than a ‘non-native’ passport or accent, can be a serious mark against you in most Irish ELT staffrooms, and I would bet the same can be said of the UK too.

So is our right to union membership in the UK and Ireland any less of a right than the right to equality in the hiring process which Silvana Richardson championed so gracefully and boldly and to so much applause in 2016? This is the question we need to discuss because increased professionalism, equality and better conditions will ultimately follow from widespread union membership.

Unions promote the equality Richardson and Kiczkowiak both talk about. Unions provide the expertise and standing under the law to address and advise on a lifelong career in ELT beyond the hiring phase. Unions representing ELT do exist: see TEFL Guild’s advice on unions for the UK, Ireland and Canada. And don’t forget the American Federation of Teachers, a union which was a major sponsor of the 2016 TESOL Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

 Join unite website banner11-33255

I’m a teacher trainer/ educator/ mentor. What can I do?

My request to those who work with teachers in a training capacity is this: please talk to these teachers about joining a union. In Ireland, ELT ADVOCACY have put in many hours informing unions about our sector and unions have won victories for ELT workers here.

Trainees often spend a year or so with a less than reputable school in an effort to gain experience in their first years of work, with little more to protect them than a smile and good will. ELT can’t just mean Exploiting Language Teachers, but change will only come when ELT workers take themselves, their profession and their colleagues seriously. Individual degrees and training gain entry but what will ELT professionals find when they get beyond the gateway to the field?

How trainers are key: a story of success

Here’s a parallel from another field. Archeologists working on building sites in Ireland were subject to contracts with pay below the living wage. The Living Wage in Ireland is €11.50 while minimum wage is €9.55. Site archeologists were earning slightly more than the minimum wage. These were archeologists who had Masters’ degrees and PhDs.

Why was their highly skilled work being paid so poorly? Why were the digger drivers on the sites being paid better? The answer was that the digger drivers were in unions. Getting enough archeologists into a union was a problem but it was resolved when the archaeology lecturers in the universities and trainers started playing their part as local advocates. When they encouraged their students to join a union, numbers swelled and union membership was normalized. The union was then able to use the courts on the archeologists’ behalf. The benefits were felt on all sides. The archeologists continued their professional practice for the good of our national heritage. The building site operators who planned for and hired the archeologists raised their rates commensurately. And the wonderful people who trained the archeologists anticipate a small rise in the number of course applicants because those would-be professional diggers can now say ‘yes’ to following their dream since the wages now match the level of commitment and training their profession requires. The same thing can happen in the English language teaching industry.


It’s time for trainers, educators and mentors to join a union. It’s time to talk to the teachers we work with and encourage them to use their legal rights to unionise too, to make ELT a safer place to work and develop in. It’s time for us all to join a union – just like public sector teachers – so that we can all have real contracts and wages.

ELT is good work. It should be respected. But it is up to us to earn that respect through organization. Continuing Professional Development won’t do it. PhDs don’t get better contracts – union members do. Consider the duty of care you have for the teachers you’re training. Take a page out of Silvana Richardson’s book and stand up for teachers as professionals.

As Philip Kerr said at IATEFL 2016, ‘Things are changing. Join a union.’


Irish Council of International Students webpage on the Irish College Closure Crisis
‘Welcome to the precariat: a new class born’ by Paul Gillespie in The Irish Times 8/11/2014
‘International students hold protest in Dublin city centre’ by Sorcha Pollack in The Irish Times 5/5/2015
 *Precarity is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.
 *Optional Regulators
Here I am referring to ACELS, but also to MEI and IEM Providers QQI under the Department of Education and Skills.
MEI [See ] promotes membership as a further mark of quality while working as a coordinating body for established school owners through which they can lobby government and coordinate efforts. It is thus not unlike a national union for local ELT organisation owners.
The Irish Department of Education and Skills operates QQI who set the International Education Mark which licenses schools to provide courses to students who will require visas. An inspection regime is in place to facilitate their work. But surprisingly, a school can still choose to operate outside all of these optional regulators as a small service provider for EU or resident students  customers. This leaves those students, and teachers, at risk.


Reprinted with the kind permission of The Teacher Trainer where this article originally appeared as ‘Time to talk about unions?‘ in Volume 31 Number 1, pages 20-21.

Train to organise teachers into your union.

Last year we ran a training session on how to organise your fellow teachers into your union. This training is open to all English Language Teachers and costs 10 euro. Details below:

Introduction to Workplace Organising

What: Training Day to help you organise your workplace

When: Sunday 26th January, 10:00 – 6:00 (please arrive 9:45, snacks provided)

Where: Jigsaw, 10 Belvedere Court, Mountjoy, Dublin 1

Cost: 10 Euros (no one turned away for lack of funds)

Contacts: Tom and John ( eltadvocacy at gmail )

The Introduction to Workplace Organising training focuses on the basics of organising: speaking to your workmates, picking an issue, and taking action on the job. The Industrial Workers of the World made this training. It has been developed for non-unionised small workplaces. The aim is to share proven techniques for building power through workplace organisation and action in smaller workplaces like the 60 ELT schools in Dublin.

The workplace organiser training does not take a legalistic approach to union action. The focus is practical and hands-on and designed around small workplaces where unionising is new. Attendees will leave with a store of organising tools and techniques to start building a better workplace the very next day.

This training is organised by London IWW, IWW Ireland, and ELT Advocacy Ireland.  This training session is being organised by and for English language school workers. Attendance is open to all workers.

Please contact the email addresses listed above for further information or to reserve your place.

Have your say on ELT in Ireland

As you may be aware, QQA legislation is working its way through the Dáil. Within this legislation is the amendment added as a direct result of Unite’s outstanding work in lobbying for reform on teaching working conditions.

In December 2018, following the snap closure of Grafton College, the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, appointed a mediator, Patrick King, to explore: “whether there is scope for a set of minimum employment standards to be agreed between employers and employees in the English language education sector.” In this role, he has been meeting with employers and employees to discuss issues in the sector, with a view to writing a full report outlining his findings.

We urge all English language teachers to contact Mr King to give an account of their experiences in the ELT sector. We believe that this process is an important step towards greater recognition of the employment abuses and shady business tactics employed by English language schools in Ireland. Your submission is guaranteed to be treated in confidence. If you would like us to forward your response to Mr King, please get in touch.

Here are some of the headings that you can use to discuss in your response:

  • Pay rate/ pay scales
  • Hours of teaching
  • Non-teaching hours
  • Employment security
  • Workplace communication issues
  • English language teaching as a career
  • Pension arrangements
  • Sick leave, holiday pay, carer’s leave, bereavement leave, etc
  • Classroom environment
  • Facilities and resources
  • Workplace bullying
  • Incidents with management
  • Opportunities to progress (or lack thereof) in the industry
  • Your concerns about the industry
  • Your view of the industry’s future
  • If you have left the industry, your experiences would be valuable to contribute to this report
  • Any other relevant issues you want the government to know about this industry and your place within it

We urge you to use this time to make your voice heard at this government-level. The government is finally listening to our rightful and genuine grievances with the industry and we implore you not to waste this opportunity.

Submissions should be emailed to by the 25th of February 2019. From today, you have 6 days to ensure that you play your part in transforming the sector for yourself and for future generations of teachers who all deserve decent, safe and viable work.

[Recommended Post] The Upside of English Language Teaching

ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

It’s with great pleasure that I share this guest post. I first became acquainted with Jeremy on Twitter (where he is @jdslagoski) and I’ve enjoyed his wit and scholarship. His blogs offer a lot of food for thought. Sojourning English Language Teachers caught my attention with its name and kept my attention with the posts. In Dr. J’s Blog of ELT Praxis Jeremy shares his efforts “to bridge the research-practice gap in English language teaching with a focus on curriculum, instructional technology, and intercultural communication.” Jeremy has been in the field of English language teaching for over 20 years and has experience as a teacher, teacher educator, and administrator in Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States. Jeremy earned his PhD in Teaching & Learning (Foreign Language & ESL Education) from the University of Iowa.

I was lucky enough to meet Jeremy at JALT in 2016 and we…

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