Qualitative Survey of ELTs in Ireland during COVID-19 Pandemic April-May 2020

Executive Summary

Analysis of this survey shows that as​ low paid workers in a precarious sector​, ELTs are under exceptional stress. ​This survey strongly suggests that ​clear regular communication ​with ELTs by government and owners and​ fair treatment of ELTs as significant stakeholders ​in the ELE sector in Ireland would be of benefit to teachers and students.

The ELTs surveyed have generally been working in ELT for over 5 years, are union members, and are living in rented accommodation.

They reported their schools to be functioning well, at good capacity in general, and teachers were looking forward to positive changes in the sector when their schools were closed by government order on 13 March 2020 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Teachers were generally informed by email as to the school plans and two-thirds of respondents said their schools did not offer online lessons in the immediate weeks following the restrictions.

Regarding employment, significant decisions were taken by ELT employers: termination; temporary layoff; direction to apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment; or whether to offer online teaching with/without reduction in hours/pay. ​Two-thirds were dealt with as a class of employees collectively without the benefit of individual contact​. The remaining third were notified with individual arrangements. Schools at least temporarily withheld pay for about half of the respondents on Friday 13 March (ruled as force majeure) and the following Monday 16. Only about three-quarters received pay for the Irish national bank holiday 17 March. Most filed for pay normally at the end of March.

24% of respondents reported students receiving refunds​. 97% said students at their school were offered some form of online learning with many​ price, quality, and supply issues ​mentioned in almost every case. Participants noted and described numerous ​ethical, pedagogical, labour rights, and customer rights issues indicated in the provision of online learning.

Teachers’ experience was divided: the majority were laid off at some point many after receiving a single​ day or afternoon of training on a video conferencing platform​. Some were still teaching through the month of April. Training was problematic and class numbers were variable due to students travelling home and confusion about whether class attendance was mandatory or not during the crisis. The vast majority of teachers are concerned about their jobs, their income and accommodation.​ Most were not aware of the government sponsored and recommended Wage Subsidy Scheme as their ELT employers simply laid them off without engaging.

Nor were they aware that the government had established a ​COVID-19 Working Group​ for the sector. This survey shows that if they could choose who to be included, they would include teachers and students. As the situation stands, ​both teachers and students are currently excluded,​ and teachers are excluded in many cases without means of contact.

Three-quarters of respondents reported being members of a trade union ​- with the majority holding a favourable view of the dominant union, Unite, and a favourable view of Unite’s representation.


Teachers were ​severely negatively impacted by the closures ​and manner in which the closures were managed, how communications with their workplaces were severed, and how the nature and quality of their work and income changed. The impact on their students seems to have had a significant negative impact on teachers as well.

The recommendation of this survey is to include teachers in the Working Group​ for the ELE sector. This recommendation is made in the current absence of links and communication with employers and variance of links to their employers, whether current or former. Teachers are ​clearly significant stakeholders in the Irish ELE sector​, and not only because of their student facing role. ​Their exclusion​ not only poses a risk to the teachers themselves, the students, and the schools, but ​is detrimental to the sector’s ability to uphold values of efficiency, inclusivity, diversity, and quality.

A move towards recognition of the importance of teachers by the COVID-19 Working Group would eliminate the need to direct the action of individual independent employers and create ​direct channels of communication with the teaching community ​who experience the problems of precarious employment in this particularly sensitive industry.

June 2020 COVID-19 English Language Teachers’ Survey

[Department of Education and Skills, Marlborough St. Dublin]

This survey seeks to learn about the experiences of English Language Teachers who were affected in their work in the Irish English Language Education sector because of restrictions placed on schools by the Department of Education and Skills.

The survey is open to all English Language Teachers working in Ireland currently and/or at the time of the beginning of restrictions 13 March 2020.

This survey is for all English Language Teachers including those who:

  • teach online for their school,
  • have taught for a short time,
  • have begun to teach more recently and/or
  • have never taught for their school online.

All 15 required initial questions are multiple choice or checkbox. They are grouped into three sections. This section takes approximately 4 minutes.

If you have taught online you can access a final 20 optional follow-on questions regarding your experience of Teaching Online. These are grouped in 7 sections. The Teaching Online section takes approximately 6 minutes.

-You may review all your answers at the end of this survey before submitting.
-You may request a copy of the report sent to you by email.
-You can exit the survey at any time and your responses will not be submitted unless you click submit.

-A sub-committee of members of the Unite ELT Branch will process the data participants voluntarily submit.
-All data remains anonymous.
-The survey will not request names or specific workplaces.
-Emails will only be required if a copy of the results as requested by the participant.
-Your personal data cannot be shared without your consent.

This survey will remain open for one month. Publication of data will happen as soon as possible after the survey closes.


Click here to access the June 2020 COVID-19 English Language Teachers’ Survey

Unite ELT Branch
3 June 2020

Years of Action

2015 was when the College Closure Crisis was at its height. At this point, 11 ELT schools had closed in Dublin alone.

Two more schools were crumbling in April 2015. Linked by ownership, MEC and NCBA had issued IOUs instead of pay at the end of

Teachers stopped working and students protested in support. Students formed MEC Student Union and on Tuesday, 5th May 2015, they marched from the Oscar Wilde statue to the QQI headquarters on Denzille Lane, to the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the quays, and to the Dáil, winning national media attention for their demand that the Minister for Education #RegulateNow.

An organiser from Unite observed the march that day. Impressed, he joined us.

He helped us go on to build this Ireland-wide ELT branch and become a part of the Joint Labour Committee talks happening this year to finally regulate for better employment in our sector.

This was the day Unite united with us.





ELT Branch Statement

Following two extensive branch meetings and further consultation with our members, we wish to convey the following.

The Unite ELT branch states that:

Schools must communicate clearly and immediately with teachers in writing about their employment situation and pay. Teachers must also be given weekly updates in writing on this matter. Teachers must not be forced to take their holidays to cover the closure period.

Teachers are under no obligation to teach online. However, if they choose to do so, all training, preparation and correction time for online teaching must be paid at the normal contracted rate.

All necessary equipment and support for teaching must be provided by the schools. Class duration and size must be reduced as appropriate for online teaching. Employees must continue to be paid at their average weekly wage, even if online teaching is not available or they are unable to do it.

Rent and mortgage payments must be waived for the duration of the crisis and there must be a guarantee of no evictions. There should be no accrued debt as a result of this waiver.

Employers must negotiate with the union immediately in order to achieve the best outcomes for workers, students, public health and their businesses.

We also wish to extend our deepest solidarity to all other branches and workers. Please get in touch if you require our help.

Unite has also called for the establishment of an Emergency Forum.

Covid-19 – School Closures Information



ELT Unite is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Branch Member Motions
Time: Mar 19, 2020 15:00 – 16:00 PM

Please check your spam filters for an email from the branch. We will be discussing a document included. In addition, please bring your proposals, known as motions, to the meeting for consideration and approval by the branch.

If you have any questions please get in touch.


COVID-19 and your Rights as a Worker – Updated 18 March 2020


Information for workers facing layoff and/or requiring Department of Social Protection Support

March 16th: With regard to the COVID-19 situation, further updates have been issued through the Department of Employment & Social Protection to Trade Unions.

This information focuses on workers in lay-off situations and requiring and needing to deal with the Department. 

Please read the information in full and follow the guidelines as set out. 

Please also circulate this information to any colleagues, friends or family who you think may find themselves in these circumstances. 

You can also access the Guide via this link

Yours in solidarity

Brendan Ogle – Senior Officer – Republic of Ireland – 16/03/20


Unite and Your Rights as a Worker

Hello to all members and non-members. Our schools have been forced to close, take classes online or perhaps, in some circumstances, keep going on a skeleton basis. The issue is that we need to gather information and establish courses of action.

Our branch is volunteer run and is always looking for new members to help. We will be holding remote meetings for members so please click here to join if you wish to participate.

Further information on schools, Unite and Government responses can be found in here in the information section of the site.

From 6pm, 12 March 2020, all schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close. Pupils should take their books and learning materials home with them this evening. While children are at home, they should practice social distancing such as minimising social contact, avoiding meeting up and keeping physical space between them and other people.


All members who have been laid off temporarily are advised to go to their local social welfare office and sign on immediately. If you need help with this please get in touch with us. If you have documentation from your employer please take that with you too, in order to ease the processing of your claim. You are not obliged to use your holiday leave, you should be paid either by the school or the state.

Citizens Information have further information if you follow this link.

WHO Guidelines

Don’t forget that during all this it is important to look after fellow teachers and we never stop our ongoing campaigns.

ELT Unite Supports TUI Strike

Teachers Union of Ireland

ELT Unite and its fellow branches fully support our brothers and sisters in the Teachers Union of Ireland in their strike action commencing today.

All of our members, especially those at Delfin and Ibat, are aware that the TUI stood shoulder to shoulder with us on many issues, especially on the picket lines. No system of inequality will survive the persistent and dedicated solidarity of those who teach.

Pay discrimination must never be accepted and we implore all who can join the picket to do so.

The following measures are required to end pay discrimination:

Elimination of the remaining differences in the early points of scale for ‘new entrant’ grades (Teacher, Assistant Lecturer, Youthreach Resource Person, BTEI Adult Educator, Adult Guidance Counsellor/Co-ordinator, Adult Literacy Organiser and Community Education FacilitatorTeacher, Assistant Lecturer etc)

Commencement on point 3 of scale in recognition of the six-year (primary degree and PME) unpaid training period 

IBAT and Delfin Strike

Pickets continue today at Delfin English School while members in IBAT have also voted to take industrial action and will be holding a series of one-hour stoppages with the potential for escalation if issues in dispute are not resolved.

Teachers at Delfin have been taking strike action from  November 11th to November 15th  and will continue to do so from December 2nd to December  6th.  Teachers at IBAT have held and will be holding one-hour stoppages (morning and afternoon) during the week, today, and Friday, as well as on November 18th, 22nd, 25th and 29th.

Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Brendan Byrne said:

“The international education sector, of which ELT is a large part, is booming, with the government projecting that the value of the sector will grow to over €2 billion by next year.  Committed, experienced and highly-skilled teachers are central to that success, yet they are often low-paid and often employed on precarious contracts.

“Rather than talking collectively to teachers about their concerns through the union of their choice, school management often rely on a culture of intimidation to squeeze pay and conditions while maximising their profits.

“Based on the feedback from our members, Unite believes that unrest in the sector will continue to spread unless and until there is a negotiated collective agreement.  We are hopeful that the Labour Court will recommend such an agreement in the near future”, Mr Byrne said.

Article 28 of the EU charter of fundamental rights states that workers and employers, or their respective organisations, have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action. Our own national legislation supports and encourages harmonious relations between workers and employers.