Most secondary schools receive no applications for advertised teaching posts – survey

Supply crisis means students are being taught by unqualified teachers, says union

Most secondary schools say they have not had applications for advertised posts due to a ‘crisis’  in the supply of qualified teachers, according to a new survey

Most secondary schools say they have not had applications for advertised posts due to a ‘crisis’ in the supply of qualified teachers, according to a new survey

 

Most secondary schools say they have not had applications for advertised posts due to a “crisis” in the supply of qualified teachers, according to a new survey.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said a poll it carried out last month of more than 100 secondary schools shows that a teacher supply crisis is worsening across the country.

As a result, it says many secondary school students are missing out on subject choices or are being taught by unqualified or “out-of-field” teachers.

The subjects where schools are most likely to have difficulty finding qualified teachers are, in order, Irish, home economics, maths, engineering/metalwork and French.

Other subjects where teachers are in short supply, according to the survey, include biology, construction studies/woodwork, English, Spanish and agricultural science.

Acute difficulties

At primary level, school principals also say they are facing acute difficulties finding substitute teachers to cover for teacher absences.

“Many teachers are out due to Covid symptoms,” said Páiric Clerkin of the Irish Primary Principals Network.

“In normal times, we could split classes, but we can’t do that. The guidance around using special education teachers in emergencies to cover classes has changed. Schools are under major pressure and we are very worried about it.”

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said the Government has responded by hiring hundreds of additional teachers and expanding teacher supply panels for primary schools.

About 380 teachers have been hired on a full-time basis to provide substitute cover to most primary schools, while new flexible arrangements allow student teachers to fill short-term substitute vacancies at second level.

TUI, however, said accommodation rental costs and availability, particularly in urban areas, means the supply of teachers is worsening.

Its poll of 109 second-level schools found that 75 per cent had advertised positions in the previous six months for which no teacher applied .

A similar proportion of schools (72 per cent) confirmed that they have unfilled vacancies due to recruitment difficulties.

Qualifications

Schools in both urban and rural areas reported that they are struggling to attract applicants to fill vacant positions.

When asked what factors were behind recruitment or retention difficulties, many schools cited the two-year Professional Master of Education (PME) qualification, which replaced the old one-year Hdip. The qualification costs in the region of €12,000 and means many aspiring teachers have to spend a total of up to six years in university in order to qualify.

The prohibitive cost of accommodation was cited as a key factor for urban schools.

In some cases, it was reported that teachers had accepted jobs and then declining because of inability to find rented accommodation.

In rural schools, they said it can be difficult to attract younger teachers, while gaelscoileanna said that there were significant difficulties finding teachers across all subjects.

Most schools agreed that these recruitment difficulties have worsened since the Covid-19 pandemic.

TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said the crisis was worsening year on year and the Department of Education was doing “precious little” to tackle it.

“This is limiting services to students, who can miss out on subject choices or be taught by ‘out-of-field’ teachers,” he said.

He said there is a urgent need to end a two-tier pay gap which discriminates against new entrants.

“The largest pay discrimination still occurs in the early years of employment, with new entrants to second-level teaching earning almost 15 per cent less on initial appointment or over €50,000 less in the first 10 years of their career,” he said.

“The divisive and damaging practice of paying colleagues different rates for carrying out the same work must be ended. In addition, we must return to employing teachers on a contract of full hours from initial appointment.”