Ireland has appealed to Irish teachers working here in the UK – and the rest of the world – to come home to end the country’s chronic teacher shortage.
But it has not done anything to address the two-tier pay and working conditions that prompted many of them to leave in the first place.
In an attempt to match educators here with schools in Ireland that have teacher shortages, the Irish government has set up an online portal, turasabhaile.com, which translates as ‘journey home’.
It is being implemented by the Post Primary Schools’ Management Bodies and National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).
According to the UK’s School Teacher Workforce figures released last year, there are approximately 7,500 Irish teachers in the UK.
In the past decade, Irish teachers have emigrated in their tens of thousands. Irish teachers’ unions say this is because of a lack of regular work, two-tier pay gaps and difficulties securing permanent contracts.
After the 2008 crash, successive Irish governments’ austerity programmes meant that teachers, as public servants, had their pay cut and other terms and conditions changed.
Ministers have resisted calls to restore pay levels for thousands of younger teachers hired on lower pay scales following the economic crash.
They say it is unaffordable given that the knock-on costs of reversing austerity-era pay scales, which they say would weigh in at about €80 million a year for teachers or €200 million across the wider public sector.
Across primary and secondary levels – particularly in populous urban areas – acute shortages have worsened. The lure of work abroad, where the quality of Irish-trained teachers means conditions and pay are much more substantive than in Ireland, means teachers have been slow in returning home.
School management bodies in Ireland say the resulting shortage of teachers is causing a “crisis” due to a lack of substitute cover at primary level and qualified teachers in key subjects at secondary level.
Introducing the new online recruitment, the general secretary of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) John Irwin said: “The beauty of this new online portal is its simplicity. We are adopting a very simple recruitment tool to enable potential candidates to be matched with schools which have vacancies. Teachers are being given the chance to express an interest in returning home and applying for a job.
“It is the first step in adopting a more digitally focused approach to recruitment. It will also help to assess demand for jobs while at the same time identify opportunities for qualified applicants.”
Teachers will be given the opportunity to email contact details, a CV, preferred employment location and specialist subjects to the turasabhaile.com website.
Schools will be able to confirm vacancies and forward school application forms for teachers.
Administrators will then process personal details and match potential candidates with schools which have vacancies, based on their geographic and subject preferences.
Standard job application criteria and recruitment procedures and circulars will apply in order for a potential candidate to qualify for an interview with a school.
Schools linking to turasabhaile.com will also be encouraged to provide initial interviews over video link, Skype or similar platforms.
The new portal will be promoted among teachers and schools on social media platforms, while the website also includes links to tips and advice for teachers who are considering returning home.
The initiative move comes as Ireland’s Minister for Education Joe McHugh prepares to host a series of “town hall” style meetings in the United Arab Emirates to encourage emigrant some of the 2,000 Irish teachers working in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other cities in the UAE, to return to Ireland.
“Many thousands of our highly skilled and dedicated teachers are working overseas, some of whom are considering returning to Ireland. Initiatives like this will make it easier,” said Mr McHugh.
“I’d like to thank the post primary schools’ management bodies and NAPD for seizing the initiative here and responding to the need for management bodies and schools to be more proactive in trying to source the best candidates.”