Schools may be asked to share teachers to ease supply ‘crisis’

Joe McHugh publishes action plan to help tackle shortages of teachers in key subjects

Minister for Education Joe McHugh: “We have to find innovative ways to resolve the issue of teacher supply.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Education Joe McHugh: “We have to find innovative ways to resolve the issue of teacher supply.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Secondary schools could be asked to share teaching staff in key subjects where there is an acute shortage of qualified teachers such as physics or home economics.

The measure is one of dozens outlined in an action plan published by Minister for Education Joe McHugh which seeks to ease the problems facing school in hiring qualified teachers.

In a statement, Mr McHugh acknowledged the importance of tackling the issue, especially in light of new subjects such as computer science and policies to promote science and foreign languages.

This, along with the projected increase in student numbers at second level, will require an adequate supply of qualified teachers in the coming years to meet the needs of the system.

“We have to find innovative ways to resolve the issue of teacher supply,” he said. “There are many Irish teachers all over the world who would happily return home and we need to explore better engagement with the diaspora and find convenient ways for them, through the use of digital technology, to avail of online recruitment processes.”

Among the measures under consideration include supports to cushion the €10,000-€15,000 cost of the two-year professional masters in education which has replaced the old HDip.

Qualification costs

The cost of the qualification is considered to be a major barrier to students opting for teaching.

Other moves under consideration by the working group are understood to include:

– Further increasing the numbers on so-called concurrent undergraduate teaching courses, which are cheaper option for students seeking to teach;

– Restrictions on job-sharing teachers undertaking substitute work to be removed as soon as possible;

– Continue allowing teachers on career break to take up employment without a restriction on days/hours worked;

– A more streamlined process for the registration of teachers qualified in jurisdictions outside the State;

– An upskilling programme for teachers in targeted subject areas, such as maths, physics, chemistry, computer science, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Irish and home economics;

– A programme to encourage and support teachers not currently in the labour force to return to teaching;

– Fast-tracking the registration of teachers who have qualified abroad. Such teachers often face long delays or bureaucratic hurdles in securing registration from the Teaching Council; and

– Removing work restrictions from job-sharing teachers. At present, such teachers are not permitted to work as substitutes.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland, which has described the staff shortages as a “crisis”, said the proposed measures simply amounted to “sticking plaster” solutions.

It says full pay equality and better working conditions are needed to attract more teachers to the profession.