Teachers overseas may be interviewed for jobs at home via Skype

New Minister for Education says initiative could help to ease classroom staff shortages

Joe McHugh, the newly appointed Minister for Education, said thousands of teachers are based in places like Dubai or Abu Dhabi and many feel unable to fly back to Ireland for job interviews. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Joe McHugh, the newly appointed Minister for Education, said thousands of teachers are based in places like Dubai or Abu Dhabi and many feel unable to fly back to Ireland for job interviews. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

 

Schools may be encouraged to interview Irish teachers based in the Middle East over Skype as part of a new effort to tackle classroom staff shortages.

Joe McHugh, the newly appointed Minister for Education, said thousands of teachers are based in places like Dubai or Abu Dhabi and many feel unable to fly back to Ireland for job interviews.

Mr McHugh - a former teacher who worked for a time in the United Arab Emirates - said overseas teachers could play a key role in addressing the ongoing staff shortages.

“I think back to my own time there. You do feel you’re a good bit away from home and you feel you’re out of sight, out of mind. If there are creative ways to make it easier for them - be it interviews or Skyping interviews - I think that’s a possibility,” he said.

He was speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals in Galway on Friday, which heard that many secondary schools are struggling with a shortage of qualified teachers for key positions.

Mary Keane, the association’s president, said many schools do not have qualified teachers this year in key subjects such as Irish, European languages, science and home economics.

Grind schools

She said the “crisis” had reached a point where more affluent parents were opting to move their children to grind schools. This, in turn, she said, was widening the socio-economic divide between the haves and have-nots.

Mr McHugh said the Department of Foreign Affairs could also have a role in spreading awareness of vacancies or initiatives to attract teachers home.

The Minister, who formally took over the role on Wednesday, also said he was aware that many teachers and principals have a growing sense of “initiative overload”.

Mr McHugh said he was conscious of the time pressures facing the profession and said he will “take stock” of the Government’s action plan to see “what’s working, and what’s not working”. He also acknowledged that schools need more certainty over the payment of grants for renovations, which are typically paid at the end of the year and during the summer.

The Minister pledged to ensure summer works funding would be available every summer over the coming years, while minor grants will be made before Christmas.

“I said it yesterday and I think all the red buttons in the Department of Education went off when I said we would do it before Christmas - but that’s the commitment.”

He also pledged that a €60 million grant to upgrade ICT equipment will be paid out to schools in January of next year.

“That’s another red button that has gone off in Marlborough Street - I’ll be the shortest minister of education,” he joked.