The Garda National Vetting Bureau said it has "no concerns" about its ability to handle quickly hundreds of applications for extra teachers, substitute teachers and special needs assistants ahead of the return of the schools.
Currently, 163 officials handle applications at the Thurles, Co Tipperary-based bureau, though 97 per cent of all cases are now lodged using the bureau’s e-vetting system.
Saying that it is “ready, willing and confident” that it can deal with the surge, the bureau said e-applications are now dealt with in just five working days for 85 per cent of applications received.
“Our current turnaround time is approximately three to four working days with most applications being returned in the same working day,” gardaí told The Irish Times.
So far this year, the bureau has received just a dozen paper vetting applications, taking four weeks each for processing. The Garda Síochána told The Irish Times: “There is no backlog for paper or e-vetting applications.”
E-vetting has accelerated applications, since organisations can “electronically submit, check and securely retrieve vetting disclosures”, while individuals are able easily to “complete, submit and track the status” of their own cases.
Speaking on Monday, Minister for Education Norma Foley said she was confident "there will be a very fast turnaround of Garda vetting", and no employees would be on school grounds "unless they have been vetted".
The Government is to unveil a recruitment campaign for secondary school teachers, particularly some of the 2,000 teachers registered with the Teaching Council but not currently working in teaching.
The head of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, Diarmaid de Paor, called on the Department of Education to ensure that vetting for available teachers is prioritised.
Under the Government’s plan, 1,080 extra secondary teachers will be hired, including 120 career guidance teachers – 600 posts will be made available initially, while the rest will be hired to plug gaps in schools struggling to cope.
Nearly €85 million will be spent to employ replacement teaching staff, special needs assistants and administrative staff, needed to fill gaps left by teachers who are advised to cocoon. Primary schools will get €41.2 million to hire substitute staff.
The majority of extra teachers needed in September will already have fulfilled Garda vetting requirements, but each school, nevertheless, is required to lodge an application for each individual they expect to be on its grounds.
“There will undoubtedly be difficulties in sourcing the required number of teachers and substitutes that are going to be needed when schools reopen,” said Mr de Paor.
Equally, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said the fact that “a lot of the teachers, in order to be registered with the teaching council, are already Garda vetted” should accelerate the paperwork.
“We will obviously need more teachers, but there is a system in place for teachers coming through the colleges of education, that they are Garda vetted and their Teaching Council registration is [completed] over the summer.
“Teachers who have been working in a substitute capacity prior to this would already be Garda vetted, and it’s a requirement for a teacher to be registered,” it said, adding that those registered with the Teaching Council are vetted, too.