Nearly all secondary schools struggling to fill teacher vacancies

Union says graduates are rejecting profession, leaving teaching gaps in key subjects

A TUI lunchtime protest outside Greenhills College, Dublin, over pay inequality last year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

A TUI lunchtime protest outside Greenhills College, Dublin, over pay inequality last year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Half of secondary schools are struggling with unfilled teaching vacancies in key subjects such as Irish, maths and science, according to a new survey.

A Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) poll of principals and deputy principals in 120 of the State’s secondary schools over the past fortnight indicates that many are being hit by a “recruitment and retention crisis”.

TUI president Séamus Lahart said it was clear that graduates who might formerly have chosen teaching are now looking at other options.

The survey found that almost all schools – 94 per cent – experienced teacher recruitment difficulties in the past six months. More than two-thirds – 68 per cent – of schools said they advertised positions to which no teacher applied over the past six months.

Almost half – 47 per cent – said they still had unfilled teaching vacancies.

Subject areas where the most severe recruitment and retention difficulties were reported included, in descending order, Irish, home economics, French, maths, Spanish, physics, construction studies/woodwork, biology and chemistry.

Pay discrimination

The survey of 120 schools – equivalent to a sixth of the total number of second-level schools in the country – was carried out by the TUI’s association of principals and deputy principals.

Mr Lahart said the findings illustrated the difficulties that school management are facing on a daily basis.

“Schools in both urban and rural areas are routinely struggling to attract applicants to fill vacant positions,” he said.

The TUI said pay discrimination for teachers hired after 2011 was having a damaging effect on the education system and the service to students.

While Mr Lahart said progress had been made in terms of addressing the issue recently, he said entrant teachers remained on lower pay scales in their first few years following their initial appointment.

“The two-tier system continues to have a significant negative effect on the attractiveness of the profession and on the recruitment and retention of teachers,” he said.

The union is calling on the Government to remove the differences in pay between those appointed before and after January 1st, 2011.

“With changing demographics requiring an additional 2,000 second-level teachers in the system in the next six years, these problems will greatly worsen unless the right actions are taken,” he said.