The vital work of early years teachers should be recognised with proper pay
SIR, Politicians use various meaningless buzz words to promote their personal profile without actually doing anything. The latest being “Creating a new republic of opportunity” coming from Leo Varadkar, one wonders what is his understanding and commitment to that. As we are the start of a new school year and facing into a budget, he could commence creating his vision by putting more balance and equality into the education sector.
There are many demands on our education system but it is the foundation for future prosperity where everyone can be given an equal opportunity to take part. In respect of that, surely the time has come to end the annual €100 million government subvention to private fee-paying second level schools and colleges to create a more level playing field for all.
Instead of propping up those schools, the money could be put into the early years and special needs sector, which are largely forgotten. Even though funding has increased in the early years sector, it is not sufficient as it has done nothing to improve the income and conditions of those working there. These are the forgotten educators who are involved in the most important years in a child’s development and education. It is in those early years the children’s future abilities and characteristics are nurtured and shaped and are prepared for easy transition into the primary sector. We continually hear of the need to attract quality early years staff, but if they are not financially rewarded how can that happen. At present 20 per cent of those in the sector are educated up to degree level; hence it should follow that they would be paid in line with their qualifications, which they are not. They ought to be on a pay scale equal to that of primary school teachers for the work of caring and education that they do, which could be delivered if the subvention were removed from fee-paying second level institutions.
In any case, since the two pre-school years are of such importance in a child’s education they ought to come under the remit of the Department of Education where those involved are provided with proper pay and conditions in line with their professional qualifications and a standardised educational and development programme is followed. Otherwise those early years teachers will continue to be looked upon as just childminders, instead of playing an important role in children’s development.
Christy Kelly. Templeglantine.