Teacher shortages: Most secondary schools unable to fill key posts — survey

TUI poll says in many cases teachers accepted a position only to later reject it for one elsewhere

Subjects where it is hardest to employ teachers are maths, Irish, home economics, chemistry and French. Photograph: iStock

Most second-level schools have unfilled vacancies in key subject areas due to teacher recruitment difficulties, according to a survey of principals.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) poll of almost 100 principals and deputies found that the vast majority (91 per cent) have experienced difficulties hiring qualified teachers in the past six months.

The union said recruitment and retention problems are affecting the quality of education for students who can miss out on subject choices or end up being taught by “out-of-field” teachers.

The subjects that are most difficult to employ teachers are — in ranked order — maths, Irish, home economics, chemistry and French.


Many (71 per cent) schools say they advertised positions in the previous six months for which no teacher applied, while a significant proportion (61 per cent) have unfilled vacancies.

Secondary schools forced to hire unqualified staff due to ‘unprecedented’ teacher shortages, say principalsOpens in new window ]

TUI president Liz Farrell said the survey findings show that a “recruitment and retention crisis” in second-level schools is continuing unabated.

The impact of the accommodation crisis across the country is having a huge effect, she said, particularly in situations where teachers have contracts of fewer than full hours.

Ireland needs to address root causes of acute shortages of teachersOpens in new window ]

“In too many cases, teachers are advising that they cannot secure accommodation, never mind sustain themselves if they do,” Ms Farrell said.

“They simply cannot afford to live in certain areas. Teachers should be awarded contracts of full hours upon initial appointment.”

The union also said that key to retaining teachers in the profession is a restoration of middle management structures to pre-cutback levels, particularly posts of responsibility.

Minister for Education Norma Foley has acknowledged that schools are facing challenges hiring qualified teachers in some areas and is examining a number of measures, including making it more financially attractive for retired teachers to return to the classroom.

Retired teachers may be encouraged back to schools to plug classroom gapsOpens in new window ]

The survey also found that in many cases teachers accepted a position only to later reject it for a position elsewhere.

Adrian Power, president of the TUI’s Principals and Deputy Principals Association, said while he understood why teachers are forced to do this, it was “extremely frustrating and time-consuming” for principals.

He said these issues would be easily remedied if schools were facilitated with enhanced allocations that would allow them to offer full hours rather than “fragments of jobs”.

Meanwhile, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) has said there was a sharp drop-off in teachers working as examiners this summer, despite increased fees which meant teachers earned on average €3,000-€8,000.

The commission told an Oireachtas committee on Tuesday that shortages were more acute in 2022 than in recent years, possibly due to more teachers opting to go on holiday on foot of Covid-era restrictions.

Andrea Feeney of the SEC said the number of Leaving Cert examiners this year was down 19 per cent on a decade ago, while the number of Junior Cycle examiners was down 38 per cent.

Over the same period, the number of candidates in the Leaving Cert was up by 12 per cent and 5 per cent in Junior Cycle.

She said the SEC sought to attract examiners with higher rates of pay per script, as well as an advertising campaign highlighting the professional benefits of marking papers.

These increased rates per script were up to 50 per cent higher for Leaving Cert papers and 57 per cent higher for Junior Cycle papers.

Teachers were typically contracted to work for 26 days to mark 200-350 papers.

Subjects most difficult to employ teachers

1. Maths

2. Irish

3. Home economics

4. Chemistry

5. French

6. Construction studies/woodwork

7. English

8. Biology

9. Agricultural science

10. Engineering/metalwork

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent