According to a recent UK expert report, teachers have been suffering from more severe psychological problems than at any point this century. UK charity Education Support predicts that school standards in the UK will fall and mental health problems in the classroom will multiply if the government does not work to create better supports for school teachers.
Those surveyed stated that among the main issues teachers face are being overworked, feeling stressed and not feeling valued. In Ireland, teachers face similar issues. The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which represents approximately 19,000 teachers, has recently announced plans to stage a one-day strike in February as part of their campaign to end the two-tier pay system in schools.
TUI members voted by a margin of 92% to 8% to engage in industrial action regarding the issue of pay equality in the education sector. TUI President Seamus Lahart said: “Pay discrimination has severely damaged the profession, ripping the morale of staff to shreds and making teaching less attractive to the best graduates.”
As a result, this has led to recruitment and retention issues at schools and colleges throughout the country. In 2018, The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said a rising workload was contributing to increased stress. Most Irish teachers work over 40 hours per week, comprised of around 21 hours and 20 minutes teaching time and over 20 hours a week on non-teaching activities including planning lessons, marking homework or attending meetings.
The study found that more than one-quarter of teachers do unpaid work for roughly 10 hours per week. This can include pastoral care, supervision of yard times, coordination of school tours, or attending parent-teacher meetings and school open nights. Research carried out by DCU’s National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) in 2018 also found that almost 10% of Irish teachers were victims of cyberbullying, most of which is carried out by their own pupils.
Low pay, the cost of housing and the stresses faced on the job is leading to many Irish teachers moving abroad for work. It is estimated that 6,000 Irish teachers work abroad, 2,000 of whom are estimated to be working in the United Arab Emirates and neighbouring states, where salaries are higher and perks such as free accommodation and health insurance are included in contracts.
There is now a concern that schools struggling to recruit or retain teachers will lead to a drop in the overall quality of education in Irish institutions.