Schools are recording a surge in applications from teachers for career breaks as education authorities in the Middle East and Australia step up recruitment here with financial packages of €60,000-€70,000 a year.
Amid acute staff shortages in many Irish schools, recruitment firms are offering financial packages which in many cases include flights, health cover and relocation expenses.
Public schools in the United Arab Emirates are due to host virtual recruitment fairs aimed at Irish teachers next month for vacant teaching posts in the coming academic year with salary packages worth in the region of €60,000 a year. The packages include flights and health cover.
Catholic schools in the state of Victoria in Australia are also targeting Irish teachers as part of a recruitment drive in Ireland next week with offers of salaries of between €48,000 (two years experience) and €69,000 (11 years or more experience).
It comes following warnings from teachers’ unions that a combination of high housing costs and the rising cost of living are making it unaffordable for many young teachers to live in urban areas.
The salary scale for teachers in Ireland starts at €40,635 and climbs to €75,871, excluding allowances for posts of responsibility.
Latest official figures show the number of teachers on career breaks, meanwhile, has climbed to a record high of 3,153, a 33 per cent increase on last year.
Paul Crone, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, said school leaders are dealing with a new surge in applications for career breaks for the coming academic year.
“Many teachers who graduated during the pandemic have their CIDs [contract of indefinite durations]. They weren’t able to travel due to restrictions during the pandemic. Now, they are applying because they have permanent jobs to come back to,” he said.
In most cases, he said schools were only granting career breaks if they are able to hire replacements.
Garrett O’Dowd, director of Teach & Explore, a recruitment firm which links Irish teachers to jobs abroad, confirmed that numbers seeking teaching jobs abroad have increased, but “not by a huge amount”.
He said the Middle East is still the most popular location for Irish teachers due to a combination of generous salaries, climate and proximity to home.
The UK is also popular for teachers seeking experience but has lower salaries, he said. Australia and New Zealand are becoming a bigger draw for Irish teachers, though salaries are broadly similar to home in many cases, while accommodation can be expensive.
Dr Anne Looney, executive dean of DCU’s Institute of Education, said many overseas territories are regularly seeking to recruit new graduates, but the university no longer facilitates this.
“They make offers that are difficult to refuse, but in our experiences new graduates are unlikely to take off immediately, They want to get their induction completed and many prefer to have a permanent post first,” she sad.
“You also find that the teachers who go to Australia or the Middle East find that it is not a cakewalk: the find out that the level accountability can be higher, parental expectations greater and the quality of other teachers not always as high,” she said.
“But, it can be a great thing for young teachers to do and they generally come back. It is rare that someone stays out there for more than a decade.”
The Department of Education said Irish teachers are highly trained and valued the world over.
In a statement, it said teaching in Ireland remains an attractive career, emphasised by a 20 per cent increase in CAO applications for post-primary initial teacher education courses over the past two years.
“Once qualified the starting salary for a teacher in Ireland is now over €40,000 per annum, which is significantly higher than the equivalent figure in Northern Ireland, for example, where the first point on the scale is £24,137 (approx. €27,300),” the department said.
“By October 2023, a teacher on point one of the scale will earn a minimum of €41,390, an increase of more than €10,000 per annum since 2012. A teacher on point 14 of the scale will earn at least €62,430 and those on the top point at least €77,000.”