The vi­tal work of early years teach­ers should be recog­nised with proper pay

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - OPINION -

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.

Sin­cerely,

Christy Kelly. Tem­pleglan­tine.

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