Secondary schools undermined by Irish teacher shortage, survey finds

TUI study states students in most schools taught by teachers not qualified in subjects

Irish is the subject where teacher shortages are most acute at second level, a new survey has found.

The poll of principals and deputy principals at 150 schools, carried out by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) late last year, found that many students are being taught by “out of field” teachers without any qualification in the subject they are teaching.

Three quarters of respondents said they had been in a situation where there were no applications for a vacancy in the previous 12 months. Just over half said their school still had unfilled teaching vacancies, while two-thirds said some subjects were being taught by teachers not qualified in the area they were teaching.

Irish, maths, French, home economics, Spanish and physics were ranked as the subject areas which in which the most severe recruitment/retention difficulties were experienced.

An overwhelming majority said recruitment difficulties had impacted negatively on the service to students .

TUI president Séamus Lahart said pay discrimination introduced after 2011 meant that the teaching profession could no longer compete with jobs in the private sector.

“These alarming findings outline the clear damage that has been inflicted on the profession and the education system, with schools experiencing severe difficulties in both the recruitment and retention of teachers,” he said.

“The findings are consistent with the fall of over 50 per cent in the numbers applying for places on the professional master of education (PME) postgraduate teacher education courses between 2011 and 2018.”


While progress has been made on reversing the cuts to pay of new and recent entrants to the profession, Mr Lahart said there can be no such thing as “partial equality”.

“With changing demographics requiring an additional 2,000 second level teachers in the system in the next six years, these problems will greatly worsen unless the right actions are taken.”

The Department of Education has previously pointed out that the pay deal will restore pay for “new entrant” public servants recruited since 2011 by between €1,000 and €3,600 a year.

TUI members voted to accept this pay deal last year, though it was rejected by two other teachers’ union, the ASTI and INTO.

Stephen Goulding, president of the TUI's principals and deputy principals' association, said the union was unimpressed by the "sticking plaster" measures put forward as solutions.

“A teacher trains for six years, incurring significant debt and commencing 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 TUI is calling for an acceleration of the process of pay equalisation for those who commenced employment since 2011.

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