Ireland is suffering an acute shortage of teachers, reports The Irish Times following a canvas of various schools’ representatives.
The shortages follow years of inferior pay and conditions, and poor job security, for younger recruits into the profession.
The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, which represents 2,800 primary schools, said 90 per cent of its schools had difficulties getting substitute teachers. The paper cited similar findings by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
Irish primary schools estimated that between September and the end of October of last year their schools had about 15,552 days of substitutable absences, of which only 10,328 (66 per cent ) were covered by a registered teacher.
The State Examinations Commission has also reported difficulty in recruiting examiners to conduct some exams as school managers in many cases say they cannot release teachers.
The Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools, which represents 96 community and comprehensive schools, found in a 2017-2018 survey that almost all of its schools have “serious difficulties” recruiting casual/short-term substitutes.
The most pressing problems were in Irish, European languages such as French, Spanish and German, along with maths, biology and science.
“The majority have had to advertise temporary vacancies a number of times – some with ongoing advertisements and no applicants,” it found.
As part of the survey, schools identified where despite advertising and re-advertising there were no applicants for positions. These schools were reported to be engaging unqualified personnel to teach subject specialisms. It found a number of key vacancies had not been filled since September 2017.
The Education and Training Boards Ireland, the management body for more than 200 secondary schools, reported a “serious shortage” of teachers in the same subjects.
“The shortage of qualified teachers in some subject areas has resulted in students in their Leaving Certificate year, for example, being left without a qualified teacher in specific subjects for months on end,” it stated, in a submission to the Department of Education.
The biggest school management body at second level, the Joint Managerial Body, carried out a survey of 153 schools and found the most difficult vacancies to fill were Irish, French, maths, home economics, German and science.
Last month the Irish government said it will take action this year to ensure there are enough teachers in key school subjects earmarked as crucial for future job growth.
Ireland’s Education Minister Richard Bruton said this action could include new schemes in which State pays some, if not all, of the cost of a teaching qualification for people who already have degrees in areas such as physics.
Mr Bruton prioritised science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. But Irish secondary schools are also having difficulties finding teachers in the subjects of Irish, home economics, physics and European languages.
Mr Bruton said about 6,300 additional teachers had been hired since he took over as Minister for Education in May 2016 which meant “there is no shortage” of teachers “It is just that we have very rapidly expanding demand because we are meeting demographic needs. We are restoring resource teachers, we are restoring guidance counsellors.
“We recognise there are teacher-supply implications of that and we are going to change the model of teacher supply.
“One thing is to look at the intake and shape it. We would say to the colleges: we will fund 1,000 teachers being recruited but we want to see a quota of X in physics, Y in whatever. So that’s one thing we can do.
“The other thing is we can look at the physics and the graduates coming out from college who are doing these things, a small proportion of whom go into teaching and we can make incentives for them, to attract a proportion of them in.
“So, 7,000 a year to do a masters and it is a two-year masters, so 14,000. So that would be another route, you’d have a way of coming into teaching. Either for new graduates, who are just coming out of college, or people who have worked in another role. You have a physics degree, you’ve worked in industry for a good few years and you may want to have a career change.”
“We need to address this and we will address this in 2018. We are looking at all the strands on what we could do and we aim to start looking at the initiatives next year.”