Students turning to grind schools due to teacher shortage ‘crisis’

School principals say practice is deepening socio-economic divide in Irish education

A shortage of qualified teachers is forcing students to turn to grind schools in greater numbers, deepening the divide between the haves and have-nots in society, school principals say.

A shortage of qualified teachers is forcing students to turn to grind schools in greater numbers, deepening the divide between the haves and have-nots in society, school principals say.

 

A shortage of qualified teachers is forcing students to turn to grind schools in greater numbers, deepening the divide between the haves and have-nots in society, school principals say.

Mary Keane, president of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, says a “staffing crisis” means many schools have opened this year without a full complement of qualified staff.

These issues have hit Gaelscoileanna particularly hard due to the lack of suitability qualified teachers in areas such as languages, science, maths and home economics, she said.

Ms Keane is due to highlight the extent of the teacher shortage as part of her presidential address at the organisation’s annual conference which is taking in Galway and will be atttended by more than 500 second-level school leaders.

“Teaching supply is the biggest crisis our sector faces. It is hugely important that we have fully trained high-calibre teachers in our classrooms,” she said.

“We heard last week that there will be an increase in teachers posts and special needs assistants, however, as we embark on yet another school year, the lack of suitably qualified teachers is still a troubling concern with many schools opening without a full complement of staff this year.”

‘Socio-economic divide’

She said the shortages were creating a “socio-economic divide” in many schools.

“With substitute teachers or fully-qualified teachers in a number of key subjects impossible to find, parents, who are in the fortunate position to be able to do so, are supplementing their children’s education with grind schools,” she said.

“This is creating an unfair divide between “haves and have-nots” which undermines the value of our public education system.”

Ms Keane said the Department of Education’s response to the issue was a report completed in December 2015.

“Almost three years on, we are still awaiting decisive action. While the department has established a working group to address this issue, it is disappointing to not see any representatives from either the primary or post-primary sector on this group.”

Priority

Ms Keane also said the health and wellbeing of students and staff was a key priority for the association.

“School leaders are calling for access to one-to-one mental health counselling for all students, who require these services.

“Currently, there are lengthy waiting times for students to access these services. This lack of access to vital services places teachers and school leaders in a difficult position. While they continue to support these students, they are not getting the professional health services they need.”

Ms Keane also said the timetabling of junior cycle class-based assessments was an issue of concern.

The current system places a significant heavy burden on teachers, students and their parents, with many students now “abandoning” extra-curricular activities to complete these assessments, Ms Keane said.

“Our education system suffered a lost decade during the downturn. We are all now striving to make up that lost time.

“However, unless we fix the fundamentals of our system such as teacher shortages or student wellbeing, any increased State investment will not achieve its objectives”, Ms Keane concluded.