Substitute teachers to be be hired on full salaries to ease classroom ‘crisis’

Many schools say they are forced to rely on unqualified or retired staff to provide cover

Panels of substitute teachers are to be employed on full-time salaries to help primary schools source teaching cover at short notice. Photograph: iStock

Panels of substitute teachers are to be employed on full-time salaries to help primary schools source teaching cover at short notice. Photograph: iStock

 

Panels of substitute teachers are to be employed on full-time salaries to help primary schools source teaching cover at short notice.

Many primary schools say they are being forced to hire unqualified or retired staff to cover for teachers on maternity leave or training days due to what they describe as a “crisis” in teacher supply.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has announced that teacher panels will be established to provide cover for up to 90 schools in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kildare and Meath.

He said the initiative was aimed at providing more certainty for schools experiencing staffing shortages. The pilot scheme will see up to 18 teachers hired on full-time contracts. Each teacher will be based in one school and will rotate among a cluster of up to 15 other schools.

Supply panels of substitute teachers were established more than a decade ago, but were ended as a result of austerity-era cost cutting.

Inefficient

Department of Education officials said at the time that the panels were expensive and inefficient, with some teachers who were underworked on full-time salaries. However, officials now say new developments such as release days for principals meant there was greater certainty and demand for substitute support.

Mr McHugh said the scheme was initially focusing on Dublin, Galway and Cork, as well as the commuter belts in Kildare and Meath, where staff shortages are most acute.

“Much like the clustering initiative for postprimary schools to work together and share teachers in some subjects, we are now asking principals and management to put the best foot forward to make these new substitute panels work,” Mr McHugh said.

Clusters

He said primary schools were being asked to collaborate and work together in clusters in each of the six areas.

“I urge them to see this as an effective solution. These substitute supply panels have great potential to support schools in tackling the issue of staff shortages, to reduce administrative burden and improve access to quality, reliable substitute cover,” he said.

The idea is that each supply panel will be staffed by between two and three teachers on a full-time basis. Each panel will provide cover for a cluster of between 10 and 15 schools.

It is envisaged that each teacher on a panel will be employed by one school in the cluster on a one-year full-time fixed-term contract.

The teachers will be assigned to schools in the cluster to provide substitution as required.

Mr McHugh said it is envisaged that each cluster will include a broad cross-section of school types, including rural schools.

Selected locations

Schools will need to be reasonably close to each other in order to maximise the efficiency of the panel.

The department will shortly be contacting schools in the selected locations regarding participation in the scheme.

Teachers’ unions, however, say shortages of teachers will continue until the issue of lower pay scales for new entrant teachers is fully addressed.

They say many have opted to emigrate for better salaries and more regular teaching hours.

Mr McHugh, meanwhile, is planning to visit the United Arab Emirates in the coming weeks to “make them aware of the opportunities available here”.