Head teachers press minister over plans to meet needs of rising school population

Union says problem is more than just additional teachers and classrooms

Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 18:23

Senior teachers are pressing the Department of Education to draw up plans to accommodate an expected 15 per cent jump in the numbers beginning second level education over the next five years.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, (NADP) says it is worried by a lack of data detailing the number of teachers expected to retire and the subjects they teach at second level.

This alleged shortage of information linked to the projected jump in the school population means there is a risk that teacher shortages in certain subjects is a possibility by 2020, the union says. Official figures point to the numbers entering second level education reaching nearly 71,500 by 2020 – a rise of close to 9,500 or 15.2 per cent.

The Government has already unveiled a school buildings and improvement programme, partly in response to the rise in population. The NADP also believes more planning is needed to ensure experienced teachers, qualified to teach a wide range of subjects are in place as school sizes grow.

In particular, the union singles out “insufficient ICT resources” with resources such as WiFi still absent on some campuses. “This problem may intensify with increased student numbers,” it says.

The union’s director Clive Byrne said that the Department’s commitments to school-building and teacher-recruitment was to be welcomed.

He added: “The increase in secondary school enrolments in the years ahead is a more nuanced problem that just more classrooms and more teachers.”

“It is also essential that there is the correct match between subjects taught at second level and having the right numbers of teachers to teach those subjects. For example, Ireland is becoming a leading player in the development of IT products and services.

“For this leading position to be sustained and grow, we need sufficient numbers of teachers to teach the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths at secondary level.

Last November Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn admitted there was a “pressing need” to provide new schools and expand existing ones to meet the accommodation needs of a growing school-age population.

“We are facing massive increases in the number of school-going children in the coming years,” he said.

“Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by over 70,000 between now and 2017 – over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post-primary – and will continue to grow up to at least 2024 at second level.”