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People who teach are amongst the most important in society

I read and view a lot of media on education, teaching, schools, and inclusion. Over recent years, I have noticed a marked change in how schools and education staff are portrayed. Even in the sports media in Ireland teachers are devalued. A recent article for The42 by Tommy Martin painted a picture of teachers in Ireland as only being the biggest participants in our national GAA sports teams because they had the time, the energy, and the holidays.

This change in mainstream media coverage has coincided, or indeed has precipitated, a change in how our political leaders address teachers and develop education policy, creating an atmosphere of distrust, and removing schools’ and teachers’ autonomy. The issue has been recognised this academic year by UNESCO’s theme ‘Value Teachers, Improving their Status’, which advocates for fair pay, equitable access to training, support & resources, and states that it is necessary to value the work of teachers.

This past couple of weeks, as Teacher Unions across Ireland and the UK have been gathering for their annual conferences, teachers have been bravely coming forward to tell their stories of financial hardship, lack of support and resources, erosion of their wellbeing, and the impact on their mental health. Young and newly qualified teachers feel they are being left with no choice but to move abroad for better conditions or quit teaching altogether. This has led to a teacher shortage crisis.

For those who remain, the increasing workload, the growing needs of their students, and a lack of resources to meet their needs, leave them feeling exhausted, guilty, and often isolated. Many feel undervalued, a feeling compounded by negative media coverage.

But finally, there are popular voices willing to speak out. Professor Brian Cox recently lent his voice to advocate for better pay and conditions, and recognition of the value of teachers. He said:

the people who teach the children are amongst the most

important people in society and it’s incomprehensible

to me that you would have a system that devalued the

people who are responsible for the foundation of the

society of the future.

Slowly, the media coverage is changing as parents and local communities realise the impact of an undervalued teaching profession and an under resourced school system.

Now is the time to stand up for teachers. Listen to their stories, support their call for fair pay and better conditions, and recognise their value to our children, young people, communities, and society. Remember:

a country that fails to value its teachers, fails to value its future

- David Puttnam

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