Principals warn teacher shortage will worsen due to spike in student numbers

40,000 more students set join second level over next six years

Latest forecasts indicate that the number of students at second level is due to jump by 40,000 by 2024. Photograph: iStock

Latest forecasts indicate that the number of students at second level is due to jump by 40,000 by 2024. Photograph: iStock

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Second level principals have warned that teacher shortages will worsen due to a significant spike in student numbers over the next six years.

Latest forecasts indicate that the number of students at second level is due to jump by 40,000 by 2024.

The issue of recruitment and retention is top of the agenda at a meeting of an association of more than 100 principals and deputy principals affiliated with the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) in Enfield, Co Meath.

The conference will hear calls for a roadmap that outlines when full pay equality for new and recent entrants to the profession will be delivered so the profession can remain attractive to the best graduates.

Challenges

Speaking at the conference, the association president Stephen Goulding said an imminent spike in student numbers will pose significant challenges to the education system.

“Already, schools regularly advertise posts that often fail to attract suitably qualified applicants, and in some cases, there may not be any applications at all for posts in particular subject areas,” he said.

“With student numbers at second level projected to grow from 364,000 to over 400,000 between 2018 and 2024, around 2,000 additional teachers will be needed to maintain the current pupil-teacher ratio”

Leaving aside the recruitment drive required as a result of these demographic changes, Mr Goulding said schools are already experiencing severe difficulties in the recruitment and retention of teachers across the full breadth of subjects.

He said there has been a fall of over 50 per cent in the numbers applying for places on postgraduate teacher education courses between 2011 and 2018.

“There is no doubt that teacher recruitment and retention problems inflict severe damage on the education system.,” he said.

“Students miss out on subject choices and experience a fractured service as a result of having several different teachers in particular subject areas.”

Debt

He said that, currently, a teacher who trains for six years will incur significant debt and commence employment at an average age of 26, “only to be paid at a different rate for doing the same job as an existing colleague”.

He said continuation of this regime will undoubtedly deter graduates from pursuing the profession, to the detriment of teaching and to the benefit of other forms of employment.’

The Department of Education has pointed out that a new public sector pay deal will come close to bridging the gap between new and recent arrivals to the teacher profession.

It removes two points from salary scale which will allow more recent entrants to progress up the scale quicker

It has also pointed out that it has published a series of actions aimed at boosting teacher supply, including additional places on undergraduate teaching courses which are much cheaper for students.

On foot of this, t number on both undergraduate and postgraduate teacher training programmes has increased in the past year.

However, Mr Goulding a said roadmap and timeframe that outlines the resolution of new entrant pay issue is “urgently required” if the education system is not to lose out to other jurisdictions and other forms of employment.’

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