Pay inequality must end to ease escalating teacher supply ‘crisis’, says FF

Thomas Byrne says students’ education is being damaged by lack of qualified teachers

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said teacher shortages are damaging children’s education. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said teacher shortages are damaging children’s education. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to agree a road map to end pay inequality among teachers in order to tackle “an escalating teacher supply crisis”.

Education spokesman Thomas Byrne said shortages are having a damaging impact on students’ education.

“Unless the issue is tackled in a comprehensive way, wholesale class cancellations and even school closures could become a reality in the future,” said Mr Byrne.

The matter is set to dominate teachers’ annual conferences next week, with unions expected to warn of industrial action unless the issue is dealt with urgently.

Mr Byrne said a shortage of substitute teachers and shortages of qualified second-level teachers in science, languages, Irish and home economics had been denied by Minister for Education Richard Bruton until recently.

“The lack of teachers in all these subjects threatens the education of our young people and undermines all sorts of national, social, cultural and economic objectives,” said Mr Byrne.

The Meath TD was highlighting the party’s 10-point plan to remedy teacher shortages.

On pay inequality, the plan calls on Mr Bruton to agree an road map with unions on how full pay equality will be achieved and when.

Mr Byrne did specify how soon this should occur. When asked if teachers should be prioritised over other public sector workers, he said they should “all be prioritised”.

The Government has previously estimated that that cost of equal pay scales for new entrants will be in the region of €200 million.

Other measures include a recruitment campaign to encourage emigrant teachers to return, along with a public information drive to promote the profession at home.

It also calls for reforms to two-year post-graduate teaching qualifications which the party says are too expensive.

It says this could be reduced to a single year, or else allow teachers in their second year to take up paid employment.

Other measures include the re-establishment of teacher substitute panels to cover for short-term absences, removing hurdles for retired teachers and those on career breaks to work in school.

Skilled migrant teachers who have previously worked as educators should also be able to have their qualifications recognised as part of a much faster applications system.

Earlier this month, Mr Bruton announced a range of measures which he said would help tackle the teacher supply crisis.

Hundreds of extra teacher-training places are to be provided this year on undergraduate and postgraduate courses for teaching.

Many will be targeted at areas where there are shortages such as science, Irish and foreign languages.

He also announced measures to expand the number of days teachers can work while on career breaks, and to limit new applications for career breaks.

Latest figures indicate there has been an increase in applications to teacher education courses this year at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.