This second survey by Unite ELT finds 149 English Language Teachers in Ireland believe that living and teaching through the Covid-19 Pandemic has not just been stressful and costly and damaging. Uniquely government has excluded the entire teaching body stakeholder group from all talks to relieve or improve their conditions or discuss conditions for safe return.
Teachers indicate situation may have been less damaging if managers and owners had communicated with them more regularly or would begin to do so. For example, teachers were not informed by their schools of a publicly funded state-chaired Working Group on the English Language Education sector established just after the restrictions for the sector had been officially extended to cover the ELE sector. Nor were teachers informed of their rights while working from home, with exceptions in only a few cases across the 149 teachers responding. Most report having received fewer than 3 emails over the course of the entire pandemic.
In tandem government’s ongoing unilateral policy of exclusion from the ELE Sector Working Group discussions of people who work for wages the English Language Education (ELE) sector is seen as something that is against their interests.
This is noted and contextualised by a section of questions focusing on the main areas where ELT workers have traditionally faced precarity and declining conditions for over three decades: personal finance due to low wages and variable hours, accommodation in high cost rented accommodation, and mental health issues stemming from the above and continuous stories of bullying through control of hours, and the absence of regulation and oversight for standards of employment or quality etc.
Added to these areas, was a question about physical health. As workers COVID Ireland this question is more necessary because workers in Irish ELE, just as in other sectors, are faced with a de facto imposition further precarity by government choices to priortise or, in the case of the ELE sector, to exclusively engage in owner-focussed policies, talks, and practice. These exclusionary choices are at the expense of working precarious teachers and predicated on the exclusion of all employees and working people in the sector, unionised or otherwise.
There is also an extensive section detailing ELE operators transition to and practice of operating online teaching with government consent and mandate.
These findings may be a valuable resource for students and student-side stakeholders who are seeking evidence or looking for a view from inside the online classrooms giving vital context for the relative inaction of Irish quality bodies and government departmental policies.
These policies and procedures allowed for-profit schools a free hand with the setting, measurement, recording and enforcement of standards regarding level of student service, refund policies and quality provision.
This may be especially important to stakeholders who are excluded because of the absence of public records of the exclusionary state-chaired ELE Working Group’s decisions regarding the English Language Education sector in Ireland at the time this article and this report are released.
Helpfully, many individual incidents and reports noted in Unite ELT’s first survey (conducted April and May 2020) are given evidence here. These concur with findings from Irish Council for International Students and English Language Students’ Union of Ireland reported in The Irish Times and Dublin Inquirer.
It is recommended that the government’s ELE sector Working Group include teacher representatives as soon as possible.
BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY
Unite ELT Branch commissioned this second survey in May 2020 at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ireland.
The survey was open for approximately one month 2/6/2020-3/7/2020. It was emailed to all Unite ELT members and publicised on various ELT channels. Participants were encouraged to share the survey with members and non-members alike to get the largest available sample.
The questions were designed after studying the results of an extensive preliminary qualitative survey. The report of that survey is available on the Unite ELT website here. [https://eltunite.com/2020/06/18/qualitative-survey-of-elts-in-ireland-during-covid-19-pandemic-april-may-2020/]
The results of that survey indicated three areas for further research. Questions for all respondents focussed on four themes:
- Stakeholder Status;
- Communications during COVID-19;
- Teaching online
In total there were 149 valid responses out of 153 responses. Approximately 78 participants accessed a Teaching Online section which was written with the input of a large number of members. These questions were accessible through a branching structure which revealed an extensive set of questions on their experience of Teaching Online.
Below is are the graphs representing the information in the responses to the survey.
For further comment or analysis see the full report.
SECTION 1 SUMMARY: STAKEHOLDER STATUS
SECTION 2 SUMMARY: COMMUNICATIONS THROUGH THE COVID-19 SITUATION
SECTION 3 SUMMARY: PRECARITY
SECTION 4 SUMMARY: TEACHING ONLINE
TEACHING ONLINE: TRAINING
TEACHING ONLINE: PLANNING
TEACHING ONLINE: ATTENDANCE
TEACHING ONLINE: RESOURCES
TEACHING ONLINE: LESSONS
TEACHING ONLINE: COMMUNICATIONS
TEACHING ONLINE: HOURS AND INCOME