Fermanagh union rep slams ‘pay as you go’ education

AN ENNISKILLEN teacher has slammed the Government for bringing in ‘pay as you go’ education ahead of a day of strike action later this month.

On April 26, schools across Fermanagh and the North will be shut for the whole day as teachers will be taking to the picket line to demand improved pay and conditions.

Pat McGovern, who is the NASUWT union representative at Mount Lourdes Grammar School, insisted that while him and his members did not want to strike, they felt it to be the only course of action available to them given the Government’s reluctance to negotiate.


Aside from demanding in-line-with-inflation pay, investment in resources is also being demanded given that parents and teachers themselves are having to dig deep to pay for equipment and educational field trips.

“We had hoped that our initial half-day strike that we held on February 21 would have at least introduced some negotiations,” said McGovern. “However, the word that I’m hearing is that there has been nothing to offer.

“We’re hearing that usual old story – ‘there is no money’ – but I personally believe that’s a myth. There is money but there is no will to find it.

“It’s not that the teachers want to be out on strike. This dispute is not necessarily about wages – it’s also about terms and conditions, the education of young people and if you fail to invest in them, you’re failing to invest in the future.

“Most of us are parents as well as teachers. We know the situations – we see it happening. Things that used to be free are all of a sudden not. In a cost of living crisis, there are notes going home to parents saying if you want your children to participate in certain things, it’s going to cost you.

“We seem to be going down the road of what phone companies would call, ‘pay as you go’. Education has been squashed so much that’s it’s got to that point. I feel that’s not good enough.

“Education is being run into the ground. We need negotiations to resume so that we can at least get an offer we can go back to our members with.


“If you take a look at any of the school budgets in the local area, when I started teaching, around 75 per cent of the school budget was the target that should be spent on staffing.

“Now, some schools in the county would be projecting that the spend on staff would be over 100 per cent which means they are not able to supply anything else in terms of resources in the classrooms.

“We often hear of colleagues providing things for children and resources in the classroom. A lot of things have been passed on to organisations and charities. The only thing that seems to be a growth industry at the minute is foodbanks.”

McGovern also states that teachers in Britain have been made a pay offer with the North not being given one at all and that his members are concerned about burn-out.

“We don’t want to be on strike,” he added. “We don’t want to be having to push this hard. At this stage, we’re falling behind the teachers in Scotland, Wales and England who have had an offer – even if those offers were below the rate of inflation.

“For the last 10 years, we have had below inflation pay-rises. Some calculations say we are 38 per cent below inflation rate pay.

“We could find ourselves in the position very shortly where we don’t have enough teachers. Also, there are a lot of teachers – young and old – with lots to give who are also being burned out.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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