Tipperary T.D. Jackie Cahill shows his support for Loughmore NS and National Principals’ Forum

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Jackie Cahill TD, visited Loughmore NS on Thursday 7th of September to discuss the issue of Principal Teacher workload with Principal Angela Dunne.
Angela is a teaching Principal in this school, which is a vibrant and very happy and inclusive centre of learning. It is one of many ‘small schools’ in Ireland (approx. 1765 out of 3,114 Primary Schools) lead by a teaching Principal. Teaching Principals bear the dual responsibilities of both full-time teaching and full-time administrative duties, with a paltry number of release days allocated to them by the DES to lead teaching and learning in the whole school.
Their schools are categorised by the Department of Education and Skills as being a certain size and are funded and resourced according to the DES criteria. The reality is far more complex than the DES narrow criteria acknowledge and the job of leading these schools is far more demanding than these optics would suggest. In the case of Loughmore NS, the reality is that there are 23 staff in the school, while being categorised for all intents and purposes by the DES as a ‘four-teacher school’.
Jackie Cahill called to visit as he has been instrumental in assisting Angela and other members of the recently formed National Principals’ Forum to highlight the inequities and inconsistencies in our primary education system that is placing school leaders in an impossible position. He has supported the initiative and passion being shown by these Principals in holding the DES accountable to its duty of care to both its pupils and its educators. The National Principal Forum is a grass-roots lobby group set up to affect positive and meaningful change in the interests of safeguarding our primary education system, pupil educational outcomes and valuing our ‘small’ schools. ‘There is nothing small about their worth or contribution to their communities’ according to this lobby group. ‘We need to lift the veil on the level of burnout and stress Principal teachers are being placed under, by a never-ending onslaught of new regulations, legislation and bureaucracy, without any consultation or joined-up thinking by the stakeholders in education’, said Angela. ‘With regards to Educational Leadership, people not policies are what drive highly effective schools and the DES are risking the future of the Irish Primary Education System by exploiting and demeaning our young entrants to the profession and our school leaders in the manner in which they are’. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, before we lose anymore school leaders to ill health or burnout, nor young educational professionals to countries where their considerable talents are skills are fairly remunerated and respected. At least 6 Principal Teachers in Co. Tipperary have stepped-down in the past two years due to exploitative work conditions.
Jackie has assisted in arranging parliamentary party and cross party meetings for the National Principal Forum to highlight the exploitative and unfair treatment of Principal Teachers in Irish Primary schools. He has also raised numerous parliamentary questions in relation to Leadership issues in the Dáil. On Thursday he was also given a copy of the submission written by the National Principals’ Forum for the Joint Oireachtas Commmittee on Education and Skills. This outlines very practical solutions to the current leadership crisis in our primary schools. The National Principal Forum is seeking support from school staff and parents pre-budget to impress on the government the seriousness of this issue. Follow them on @forumteaching on Twitter, or on the National Principals’ Forum public Facebook page.
Parents are asked to sign a petition and return to the school for collating and sending to the Minister enmasse.