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Teaching Council Interview: Stephen Marken

We are giving our Teaching Council candidates a grilling for their upcoming election. Stephen Marken has kindly agreed to be interviewed and here are his answers. Stephen is running in the Leinster Region.

Why do you want to be a rep for the Teaching Council?

I’ve decided to run for the teaching council elections because like most teachers I am totally dissatisfied with the teaching council and its initiatives.

What have the Teaching Council ever done for us?

Aside from gathering a lot of our money I can’t really say for sure what they have done for us. They have definitely tried to make our job and the job of principals a lot more difficult.

20160119_083022What do you think is the TC’s biggest challenge?

I think cutting through the double speak that seems to emanate from the teaching council is a massive challenge. It is about time we pulled the reins a little bit too. The teaching council have lost the run of themselves and are totally out of touch with the profession. If elected I would envisage working closely with the other teacher members to reflect the views of teachers on the ground.

What do you think is the difference between the INTO and the TC in terms of their attitude to education?

This is something that I am passionate about and my views may upset some people. The INTO is a trade union. Not a professional body.  The INTO and the teaching council need to work together on certain issues and INTO members of the teaching council must represent INTO policy on issues such as Droichead, Cosán and fitness to teach.

What’s your opinion on Droichead? 

No thank you. There are other models to probation that are much more favourable. Principals and teachers have enough to be doing without forcing probation upon them. If we must have a probationary process (and I don’t necessarily believe that we do) then surely it should be totally external.

The model that seems to work best in my mind is to remove the need for probation. We could place the onus on the colleges of education. That would allow us to focus more of effort on induction and build on the wonderful work that is done by mentors.

What about Cosán? 

We don’t appear to have a problem in relation to CPD so I feel that this issue has been created by the teaching council. CPD should not cost teachers and should not be mandatory, Cosán should not have a negative impact on EPV days. Registration should not be linked to cooperation with Cosán.

Speaking of the above, what’s with all these initiatives with Irish names?

Since the first run of CEPP I think that the teaching council has had a much bigger focus on optics. The PR brains in Maynooth obviously feel like nice fluffy names as Gaeilge are less offensive than the likes of CEPP.

Do you think teachers need to be more professional than they are?

I think teachers need to be professional. The vast majority of teachers are extremely professional and I think this should be celebrated more. We don’t need to be treated like children and dictated to by the Teaching Council.

Secondary school teachers were up in arms about correcting their own kids’ exams. Primary principals seem to be up in arms about probating teachers? Are we wusses? Isn’t this just proof that we aren’t professional enough to do a professional job?

No I don’t think so. The concerns that primary teachers and our secondary colleagues were concerned with the quality of education. I haven’t opposed Droichead because I am unprofessional. I have opposed it because I feel that we must maintain the very high standards within our school.

Teachers don’t react very often. We are more open to trying new things than most professions. We are also the biggest advocates for our education system. We will not stand idly by and allow our profession and our education system to be dragged down the wrong path.

Do you think the Teaching Council have a role with regards to the patronage debate?

My own view is that all state funded schools should be free of any interference from any religious group. We are much more culturally diverse society now unfortunately our school system does not reflect this.

Is there any representation on the Teaching Council that shouldn’t be on the Teaching Council? Why?

Ministerial appointments need to be totally above board and must follow the appointments process.

What about the large number of union representatives?


There are two appointed members of the INTO on the Teaching Council. The rest of the primary reps are elected by teachers. It is true that I am endorsed by the INTO but this does not mean that INTO appoint me. I think being endorsed is very important. Those who are endorsed made a massive effort to make it to district meetings and branch meeting. We laid out our thoughts on the Teaching Council and asked people to vote for us.

Using the INTO for communication is going to be crucial should I get elected. Communication is two way, I will not dictate Teaching Council policy to INTO members. I will listen to feedback and represent these views at the Teaching Council.

Do you think teachers should have contracts?

Putting too strict a definition on the role of a teacher could be detrimental to the effective management of schools. Local arrangements that are present in our country differ from school to school. In saying that I feel that we do need to be less compliant as professionals, we don’t say no easily and I think that we must start standing up for ourselves. This is an issue more for INTO than the Teaching Council in my opinion.

Do you think teachers should have non teaching time built into their day?

Yes so long as our working time remains untouched. We already have more contact time with pupils than most other countries.

Do you think we should increase non-teaching time? If so, where would this come from?

I have no intention to add to our school day. We would free up a lot of time if we removed Religion from the curriculum and used this time as non teaching time.

Stephen Marken is a teacher in Scoil na Mainistreach in Celbridge Co. Kildare. He has been an active union member since he qualified, holding a number of positions and is currently the chairperson of District 14. Stephen has been involved in a number of campaign within the INTO and has been to the forefront of opposing Droichead and CEPP.  If elected he promises to oppose the public hearings of fitness to teach procedures. Stephen is a moderator of the Voice for Teachers page and has helped to grow the readership to nearly 16000. 

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