Primary school sends children home from school early due to teacher shortages

INTO warns that other schools in the capital may follow suit due to lack of substitute cover

Boys and girls on their first day in school. Video: Bryan O'Brien/The Irish Tims


Primary schools in the capital say they are running the risk of having to send pupils home from school early due to acute difficulties finding substitute teaching cover.

One Dublin primary school this week issued a letter to parents to express its regret that children had to go home early and start late. “We are having great difficulty in recruiting teachers and we often do not have cover if a teacher is absent because of illness, extra-curricular work or in-service training,” the letter stated.

The principal wrote that the problem was not unique to the school but common across other schools in the Dublin area.

“We recently had a young teacher turn down a full-time job as he could not afford accommodation in Dublin. He will be able to get work closer to his home and out of Dublin. Unfortunately, this situation may continue.”

The school has advised parents that they will be texted in advance with changes to timetables caused by staff shortages.

More common

Carmel Hume, a principal in south Dublin and member of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation’s (INTO) central executive committee, said it was likely the phenomenon of children being sent home early will become more common as time goes on.

“Schools are in a very difficult position. It’s almost impossible to find substitute cover for sickness or maternity cover,” she said. “Schools are faced with having to split children between different classes or using the special education teams to take classes. No one wants to do it, but some schools may have no option but to send children home for health and safety reasons.”

Ms Hume said many young teachers are moving out of the capital because they cannot afford rent, while others are moving abroad to secure better pay and conditions.

The Department of Education, however, has said that difficulties with substitution cover are likely to be linked to the fact that more new teachers are being hired than at any other time in the history of the State. It says thousands of additional posts have been created to cater for the growth in student numbers.

It has also pointed out that pay is being restored to new entrants which would see teachers benefit by thousands of euro. The department has said this deal would see new entrant salaries jump by between €1,000 and €3,600 next year, depending on when they were hired.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said recently that new teachers’ starting salaries will rise to €36,318 from this month, and are set to rise to €37,692 in October 2020. “Even in a tight labour market, these are very attractive starting salaries for graduates,” he said.