A HEADTEACHER from Enniskillen has insisted that principals have gone on strike in order to support teachers who are poorly paid and are weighed down by red tape.
Jackie Bartley, who is the Principal at St Genevieve’s High School in Andersonstown, Belfast, said the National Association of Headteachers had staged the one-day walkout today in solidarity with teachers who themselves were also out on strike across Fermanagh and the North.
Today marked the first occasion that the National Headteachers Association themselves had gone out on strike.
Bartley appeared on BBC Radio Ulster’s “Talkback” to stress that if recent funding cuts were not reversed, then the children’s education and development,would suffer
She said: “We’ve come to the stage where we’re thinking firstly – and we always do – about our children. We’ve got to a stage now where we as headteachers are there to support our colleagues – our teachers – who have much heavier workloads and are working with much more bureaucracy.
“We’ve seen our services being cut – such as Engage and extended schools funding. Really we’ve got to the stage now where there is nothing else left to give.
“As a profession, we are there to serve the needs of the children. But who is there to look after us? We as headteachers look after and try to support our teachers as best we can. But we are seeing our profession decimated by people not being paid accordingly and us looking at other nations within the UK being paid much higher salaries than we are in Northern Ireland.
“We in Northern Ireland are bringing the best statistical results for our children. And if we put pour children at the core of everything that we do, why are we not funding them? They are the future of the economy here and we have to make a stand.
“We can no longer go on and say we’re going to do that because as teachers, we all give up our own selves every day.
“We (as headteachers) are well-paid for what we do. But what we’re standing for here today is that we’re standing with the whole of our profession. We’re watching our teachers not being paid appropriately. Therefore, that is not making sure that we’re supporting our children as best as we can.
“Everybody has a story to tell about a good teacher and a good headteacher that they’ve had in their lives that has inspired them to go on to do bigger and better things.
“In Northern Ireland, we do not want the brain drain but all of our young people are moving out. We could have be saying that 10 years ago and we have. Any headteacher has been seeing this for years and years and it’s not a surprise that this has happened.”
The five teaching unions – INTO, NASUWT, NAHT, NEU and UTU – also joined the headteachers in walking out today.
Mark McTaggart, INTO Northern Secretary added: “Teachers and school leaders do not take the decision to withdraw their labour lightly. This is a last resort to demand an annual cost of living increase from the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Office.
“No teacher wants to take this step, this action is not against parents and their children, rather this is for their children.
“Our action is an attempt to have the voice of teachers heard, that they must be valued, respected, remunerated, protected and that the education system is adequately funded.
“The undervaluing of teachers and school leaders is ultimately leading to a crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers across the north.
“Teachers in Scotland are currently paid 33 per cent more than teachers here. Our young teachers will vote with their feet, and once again our teacher training colleges will be preparing young teachers for export.
“It is time for those who control the purse strings to listen to the strong voice of teachers and to value teachers and the profession.”
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