TUI blames ‘boneheaded’ policies for teacher recruitment, retention crisis

Treatment of new entrants to profession is ‘professional hazing’, says union chief Michael Gillespie

The teacher recruitment and retention crisis in education is the result of “boneheaded” Government policies, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) conference has heard.

General secretary Michael Gillespie also told the conference in Cork the next public sector pay deal will have to contain increases that reflect the prevailing rate of inflation.

Mr Gillespie told his audience that “boneheaded” Government policies were “attempting to make the education system do more and more with less and less”. The results, he said, had long been anticipated by the union.

He also described the treatment of new entrants to the profession at the moment as “professional hazing”.


He pointed to the results of a survey published by the union over the weekend that found 87 per cent of new recruits were not initially offered a permanent contract and so could not hope to obtain a mortgage. A third took three years to be even earning a full-time wage from teaching.

“This looks and feels like professional hazing, initiation by humiliation,” Mr Gillespie said. “It is unacceptable in any circumstances, never mind when there is also a cost-of-living crisis and a recruitment crisis.

“The remedy is simple – give new teachers and teachers we want to bring home full-time jobs with full-time salaries, so that they have some chance of meeting their financial commitments. To compete in this global market for teachers we need to reimagine the whole recruitment process for our schools.”

Mr Gillespie said many of the measures proposed by the union to address the situation had been ignored by Government, adding the “factors that inhibit entry and incentivising exit are as clear as day. The hidden work of preparation, reflection and assessment that is over and above class contact is not recognised.

“This essential work, alongside all that is done to support and build relationships with students, takes time and resources which are not made available to teachers and other staff in our education system,” he said.

“The real work done and real time spent outside class time must be recognised for the good it does. We can have a world-class education system, but change is needed.”

“Adding to this and causing severe work overload are the bureaucratic and administrative demands, from all sorts of sources, placed on our members. This accumulating workload is unfair, excessive, and unsustainable.

“This work is rapidly colonising personal time, at night and at weekends. The workload issue must be dealt with in a meaningful manner if we are to retain our teachers and lecturers and maintain the quality we have in the Irish education system,” Mr Gillespie said.

Mr Gillespie cited the union’s ongoing attempt to have the number of assistant principals in schools restored to pre-economic crash levels. The number of teachers in the roles dropped from 9,223 to 5,759 between 2009 and 2022.

Mr Gillespie said the “catastrophic drop” had been engineered by Government.

In relation to the public sector pay deal that is set to be negotiated between union and Government representatives during the coming months, Mr Gillespie echoed the suggestion of Irish Congress of Trade Unions president Kevin Callinan at the INTO conference on Monday.

“A successor agreement to Building Momentum will now have to be negotiated, and TUI’s strong position is that any wage increases must, at a minimum, match the applicable rate of inflation.

“A key priority in any negotiations must be to maintain the standards of living of our members in this cost-of-living crisis.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times