School principals call for action on housing and living costs for teachers

Primary and post-primary schools in Dublin and other urban areas struggling to secure teachers

School principals in Dublin and other urban areas have spoken of the difficulties of securing teachers for the coming year, unless the price of accommodation, fuel and living costs are addressed in Tuesday’s budget.

Principals say the pool of newly-qualified teachers is also greatly reduced due to teachers availing of opportunities abroad.

Dr Kathryn Corbett, principal of Bishop Galvin National School in Templeogue, Dublin, said there were 58 advertisements for teachers in Dublin as of Monday morning. She said she would be seeking two teachers for maternity cover in the coming year and was “greatly worried about what is coming down the tracks”.

Ms Corbett said accommodation was the first problem but teachers were also affected by the large costs of having to drive for lengthy periods from surrounding counties, to work. A further difficulty was that newly-qualified teachers were seeking positions abroad — particularly after Covid, having not been able to travel while in college.


“At principals’ meetings everyone there is talking about how they cannot get teachers” she said. “It is the cost of living and it is the same for nurses, guards and teachers.”

Siobhán McKiernan, principal at Scoil Mhuire primary school in Clondalkin, west Dublin, said she was “afraid to open emails” from newly-appointed teachers for several weeks last month.

“I knew the situation for teachers seeking accommodation was terrible. It has been bad for a number of years, it is bad in Cork and Limerick too, but it is particularly bad in Dublin. I was afraid if I got an email from a new teacher, it would be to say they unfortunately were not able to get a place to live,” she said.

Ms McKiernan told The Irish Times she was aware of teachers “sleeping on their brothers’ couches”. Young teachers liked to spend a few years in Dublin, she said, “but are finding they can’t do this any more. Housing is just not there. I have a full complement now, but I know that I was very, very lucky,” she said.

Former teacher and Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin from the Dublin Bay North constituency said school principals were telling him privately that they were short “six or even nine” teachers, but did not want their names to be mentioned as it was damaging for the reputation of the school.

Paul Crone, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, said the situation was “critical” and not just about housing but about higher costs of living generally in cities and urban areas.

It is “almost impossible” to find teachers, he said. Some subjects were being dropped by second-level schools while in other areas teachers were teaching subjects which they may have studied only in their first year in college, he said.

He also said many newly-qualified teachers were taking opportunities offered abroad.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland warned “a severe teacher recruitment and retention problem” was being exacerbated by the “cost-of-living crisis”. The union said it had for a number of years “highlighted the acute negative effect that pay discrimination has had on both the attractiveness of and morale within the profession”. The union called on the Department of Education to immediately reinstate of the value of the postgraduate masters in education (PME) allowance, formerly HDip allowance, valued at €1,314 to those teachers appointed after 2012.

TUI president Liz Farrell said the “alarming” difficulties were largely “driven by pay discrimination, which sees teachers paid at different rates for carrying out the same work. The cost-of-living crisis, particularly in relation to accommodation and transport, is worsening what was already a dire situation, particularly in larger urban areas,” she said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist