Plans to attract homemakers to teaching under consideration
Principals warn that students are being left without qualified teachers in key subjects
The president of the NAPD has called for a national school admissions policy which is ‘fair, transparent, and realistic’. File photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Plans to attract homemakers to the teaching profession are being examined as part of a number of steps to tackle a staffing “crisis” in key subject areas.
The annual conference of the National Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) heard on Friday that urgent action was needed to tackle a shortage of teachers in subjects such as science, maths and languages.
Speaking to reporters, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the idea of courses to upskill homemakers were among a number of steps under consideration.
He said the Springboard model - which involves providing free third-level courses for individuals who are out of work or categorised as economically inactive -has proved successful in tackling skills shortages elsewhere in the economy.
A spokesman for Mr Bruton said, for example, existing teacher education courses could be provided free for individuals with qualifications in subject areas where there are shorages of teachers, such as physics or Irish.
Mr Bruton said his department will meet with the Higher Education Authority to discuss this and the broader issue of “subject mismatches” between graduates and the demand for posts in schools.
A report on the issue of teacher supply published earlier this year found that while we are producing enough teachers to meet demand, there are shortages in key areas such as science and languages.
These shortages are being made more acute by the volume of young teachers heading abroad to avail of lucrative posts in areas such as the Middle East, according to teachers and principals.
The NAPD’s president Cathnia Ó Muircheartaigh said the shortage of qualified teachers will worsen unless swift action is taken.
“This is creating a staffing shortage in the educational sector, despite the hundreds of students who graduate as teachers each year,” Mr Ó Muircheartaigh said.
“This puts a huge strain on school leadership and threatens the viability of student activities and professional development opportunities for existing staff.”
Earlier this year Mr Bruton announced a number of other measures to increase the pool of available teachers.
They included a greater emphasis on using retired teachers and relaxing the limits on temporary employment for teachers on career breaks at second level.
Mr Bruton is also examining the potential of allowing school to employ trainee teachers.
Separately, Mr Ó Muircheartaigh also called for a national school admissions policy which is “fair, transparent, and realistic”.
“The practice whereby parents apply for multiple places in different schools is making planning of school placement unworkable,” he said.
“Our association recognises that this is happening as a response to uncertainties around admissions. However, it is exacerbating the admissions problem and must end.”
The NAPD president also called for “timely access” to counselling for both staff and students.
“Ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of students creates a context in which learning and educational attainment can flourish, rather than becoming a severe source of stress and pressure for students and their families,” Mr Ó Muircheartaigh said.
“Staff also need to be supported in what is often a demanding job, the challenges of which are constantly growing.”
While the recovery has brought opportunities, he said principals have also seen new challenges develop.
“We are hugely concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of our students – and indeed our teaching colleagues and principals,” he said.
“We must foster positive, constructive environments in our schools, where mental health is prioritised and protected.
“Access to counselling services directly within our schools, such as are the norm in many other education systems globally, must now be prioritised,” he said.