Joe Killeen’s year long tenure as President of the INTO came to a close this week.
Corofin’s Killeen had been a representative for teachers union for decades before becoming President last April in its 150th year. A special celebration to mark the occasion saw President Michael D. Higgins welcomed to their Dublin offices earlier this year.
Joe began his teaching career at Kiltrusten NS, Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Since 1987 he has been principal of Lough Cutra NS in Gort, Co. Galway, in the same year he took on the role of INTO Gort Branch Secretary in 1987.
In 2008 he was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the union to represent Galway and Roscommon (INTO District 6). As an INTO Executive member Joe represented District 6 on the Small Schools Task Force set up in 2012 to advise the Central Executive Committee on opposing proposals by the Department of Education and Skills to close small schools.
44,000 teachers are represented by the union, Killeen told The Clare Echo that securing equal pay for newly qualified personnel in the profession was his highlight from the year. “It was reduced in 2011 and for anybody who qualifies in the summer or in the future will come out on a full wage, we still have a cohort of teachers who qualified in 2011, 2012, 2013 who are on a slightly reduced wage and we are progressing with the Government that they would get the incremental move to exactly the same wage”.
According to the North Clare man, “pupil to teacher relationships for small schools” which increased in 2012 is one of the biggest issues facing the INTO. “In order to qualify for an extra teacher you have to have more pupils in your school so you take a school that traditionally had a third teacher appointed when it got to 47 pupils, it was increased to 56 pupils but you could be in a situation where you had 55 or 54 pupils with only two teachers in the school, the same applies to a four teacher school traditionally you had to have 77 pupils that was increased to up to 86 pupils.
“It means you have bigger classes in the school but it also means that smaller schools have a higher pupil to teacher ratio than larger schools and it means it’s more difficult for some pupils to get the full attention that they deserve in larger classes and it makes it more difficult for schools to provide quality education they are providing if the classes are larger than the national average which is 26 to 1 and the European average is 20 to 1, the national average is higher than the European average and even at that smaller schools have a higher pupil to teacher ratio than the national average”.
John Boyne, INTO General Secretary Designate paid tribute to the outgoing President when speaking to The Clare Echo. “Joe became President at a critical moment for INTO as the country emerged from recession. Pay inequality and wider education cuts remained. During his tenure, INTO worked with the teaching unions and secured significant movement on pay inequality, culminating with an agreement to end the injustice once and for all in the coming years. Throughout his presidency, Joe has travelled the country meeting with and listening to members and has represented the INTO abroad, most notably at key events at the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament.”
As he draws the curtain on his time as President of the organisation, Killeen is now focusing on his local election bid. He is running as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the Ennistymon local electoral area.