More than 600 extra primary school teacher training places are to be provided over the next two years as part of efforts to boost the supply of teachers.
Minister for Education Norma Foley has announced that there will be 610 additional places on primary initial teacher education programmes this year and next.
Some 320 of these are to come on stream this year with the remaining 290 to be in place in 2024.
In recent months, primary school principals have said they are managing a crisis in teacher shortages, with nearly two out of three schools in the Dublin area short-staffed.
The Irish Primary Principals Network has previously said that many special education teachers are being forced to plug gaps in mainstream classrooms which, in turn, impacts on the education of vulnerable children.
Ms Foley said the extra teaching training places are “in addition to a number of measures taken and under way which are intended to address current challenges in the area of teacher supply in primary and post-primary schools”.
She said her department continues “to work collaboratively with the education partners to ensure teacher supply”.
A statement pointed to other measures such as extending Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) status to 322 more schools from September this year; increased provision for students with special educational needs; and changes in the staffing schedule which brings the pupil-teacher ratio in schools to “a historic low”.
It also said that there are “ongoing pressures” relating to the availability of substitute teachers and that the enrolment of more than 9,300 Ukrainian pupils has impacted on teacher demands.
The department added: “With these combined factors, it is anticipated that demand for primary teachers over the next number of years will exceed previous expectations.”
There are to be 90 additional places on bachelor of education courses in 2023 and 2024, or a new total of 1,090 each year. A further 30 additional places on bachelor of education courses through the medium of Irish will be opened in 2023, bringing the total number to 60.
There will be 200 additional places on the professional master of education programme for primary teaching in 2023 and 2024, or a total of 400 each year.
Ms Foley said: “Primary school teaching remains a very popular career option, both for students leaving school and people turning to teaching mid-career.”
She said successive budgets have increased the number of teaching posts available in schools. Ms Foley also referred to the lowering of the pupil-teacher ratio and expansion in the number of Deis schools as well as an increased number of special education posts.
“All of this, combined with the growth in student numbers in recent months, have contributed to a high demand for primary school teachers,” Ms Foley added.
She said the “significant increase” in teacher training is only possible with the co-operation of higher education institutions and she thanked them for their co-operation.