I am today announcing my candidacy for the vice-presidency of the ASTI.
I run because I am convinced that the members of this Association should expect more of its leadership: expect more engagement, expect more consultation, and expect more unity.
I run to seek a new way forward for the ASTI, but first to bring the long running sore of ill-thought out reform to an end one way or another, to close the gap in pay between new entrants and their more established colleagues, and to restore all the cuts to education, including teachers’ pay. Most of all, when we are being told that ‘our efforts’ have fixed our financial system, paid for mistakes we didn’t make and elected politicians who ignore us, we are right to demand that schools and public services generally should get the investment they have been denied. I want to lead the ASTI through all this.
The crisis in our country and in our education system, brought on by the austerity introduced by one government and ‘followed through on’ by another has ignored the expert in the classroom, ignored the teacher’s voice, introduced reform for no reason other than to save money and underinvested in our children’s futures. I want to help reverse all those mistakes.
I run for the Vice Presidency and ultimately the Presidency because I want the ASTI to stand for progress not inaction and for all it’s members above all. For too long the ASTI has been retreading the past into a vision of the future. Education is moving on, embracing technology, research and change. For teacher unions to survive they must exist in the present and be aware of the future, providing information, guidance and support for teachers now, but also navigate a way for teachers to move forward in this changing environment. The greatest gift a teacher can give to a student is to help them believe in themselves. Teacher unions should give the same belief to the professional in the classroom. Many teachers have become discontented, disengaged and disaffected with their unions, it is high time we brought those teachers back under the ASTI’s wings so we can all work towards a truly representative union.
We should be talking about how to manage change, how to become more politically aware, how to provide research based views on what is proposed in education, how to reconnect with teachers in their schools and even how our unions can find common ground to support each other in their battles. I feel obliged to do all that I can to start this conversation.
I have seen some extraordinary people hold the positions of Vice President and President and know the enormous task it is to serve in those positions. But my service on Standing Committee over the last three years, and before that eight years on CEC have taught me something about both how the ASTI works and critically how the ASTI communicates its message. I believe I have the skills necessary to manage the first and improve the second. I have visited schools and branches that vary profoundly from my own, but in whatever setting, solving the problems teachers encounter with their students, with their colleagues, with management, and with the DES is the job of the ASTI, and it’s a job I’m proud to do.
I have taken a particular interest in listening to new teachers over the last three years, and I have heard their anger at the battles they have to fight to secure employment and equal pay. Meeting their expectations of good representation while impressing on them the necessity for involvement in their union will be a central aim of mine.
It is also time to reach out to other unions and other educational bodies, not with suspicion but with a desire for charting our common ground. It has always been my aim to use the power of our membership wisely, strategically and with the courage of our convictions. If we define our principles and make it known what we stand for it will be a far more comfortable journey for all teachers. But we have to believe in something first. Our path has to more than a series of calculations about what’s possible at any given time, but a set of principles that guide our every decision. At every opportunity we should try to present the ASTI as the voice of reason on pay, conditions, junior cycle and entry into the profession and I believe I have the skills necessary to make this voice heard.
I acknowledge the support and encouragement of many colleagues in this endeavour, and hope that many more can join this campaign. There is nothing personal in this declaration, only a desire to bring to the ASTI a new purpose.