More than 7,000 unqualified staff employed to plug teaching gaps
School management bodies say there are growing difficulties recruiting teachers
An unregistered person may be appointed “where a school has made all reasonable efforts to appoint a registered teacher in accordance with the normal appointment procedures and no registered teacher is available to take up the position in question”.
Thousands of unqualified people are being employed as teachers as schools struggle to fill gaps for short-term absences.
Figures supplied to The Irish Times show that some 4,600 individuals who were not registered as teachers worked 55,000 days in a substitute capacity in primary schools last year.
In addition, 2,800 unregistered individuals worked a total of 28,700 days in a substitute capacity in secondary schools.
These figures exclude schools run by Education and Training Boards, who represent a third of all second-level schools in the country.
The numbers show the rising scale of the challenge facing schools unable to find qualified or registered teachers to fill in for career breaks and maternity or sick leave.
Schools are entitled to employ individuals without any formal qualification or registration to teach in the classroom as a measure of last resort.
However, they are limited to teaching in a particular school for a maximum of five days.
The key to teaching is the relationship between the teacher and pupil. If you have constant change, all of that gets disrupted
School management bodies have been reporting growing difficulties in recruiting teachers.
At primary level this relates mainly to the recruitment of substitute teachers for short-term absences.
At second level, schools say they face acute difficulties finding qualified staff in key subjects such as science, maths, Irish, foreign languages and home economics.
Some schools say this is causing severe disruption to students who are faced with a new, unqualified or unregistered teacher every week.
In one case, a primary school principal in Dublin who declined to be named said difficulties finding qualified teachers and the turnover of unqualified staff were impacting on children,
“We haven’t been unable to fill the position, so we have no choice. When a new person comes in, there is catch-up. It makes it extremely difficult,” the principal said.
“The key to teaching is the relationship between the teacher and pupil. If you have constant change, all of that gets disrupted.”
Another said schools were “at the end of their tether” trying to find qualified staff when they need cover.
In relation to the use of unqualified staff, the Department of Education said in a statement that recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill posts was a matter for the individual school authorities.
Schools were required to employ “appropriately qualified and registered teachers”, the department said in a statement.
However, an unregistered person may be appointed “where a school has made all reasonable efforts to appoint a registered teacher in accordance with the normal appointment procedures and no registered teacher is available to take up the position in question”.
The department confirmed that any unregistered person who is a teacher must be vetted for child-protection reasons.
It confirmed that unregistered individuals may not be paid from public funds for a continuous period of more than five consecutive school days.
The department has also pointed to efforts it is taking to increase the supply of teachers such extra teacher-training places, the creation of substitute teacher panels for schools and more streamlined processes for the registration of teachers qualified abroad.
Teachers’ union say shortages are linked to a two-tier pay levels in the profession which have yet to be fully restored.
Many young teachers are also taking career breaks or emigrating to work in the Middle East, where salaries can range from €2,000 to €5,500 a month tax-free.
At second level, the shortage of teachers in key subjects seems to be partly linked to job prospects available to graduates in other sectors of the economy.