Unemployment crisis hits post-primary teachers hard - and it's getting worse

 

Unemployment will be a key agenda item at this week’s conferences. PETER MCGUIREreports on the tightening jobs market

IT’S BECOMING increasingly difficult for post-primary teachers to secure permanent employment. At the moment, plans to redeploy teachers from one school to another mean that principals are not hiring until at least the end of May.

A young teacher, fresh out of college, rarely walks into a permanent job. Most graduates have to wait anywhere between five and 10 years to secure permanency. Some 27 per cent or 7,000 second-level teachers do not enjoy permanent status.

Pat King, general secretary of the ASTI estimates that the redeployment of teachers from schools over quota to other schools will shut between 150 and 170 young post-primary teachers out of new posts.

In spite of the difficulty of securing a permanent job and a range of cutbacks across the education sector, many graduates still want to work as a teacher. Long-term unemployment is virtually unheard of in the profession. Most reckon they will – sooner or later – secure a permanent post.

But the situation is very subject dependent. Teachers with subjects like Irish, where there is a serious shortage, can be more confident of work than those hoping to teach business which is already heavily oversubscribed.

Cutbacks are also biting. Last year, the pupil-teacher ratio rose from 18:1 to 19:1, and to 20:1 in fee-paying schools. Schools with between 500-800 teachers lost up to two teachers, while larger schools of 900 plus lost three teachers. Almost without exception, these were young, temporary teachers, whose positions were not renewed.

There are other problems. Most schools depend on concessionary hours, approved by the Department of Education to fill gaps in the curriculum. A school with a full quota of teachers may, for example, want to hire a physics teacher so that the subject can be offered at Leaving Cert level. These concessionary posts tend to be filled by younger teachers. However, school principals say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get departmental approval for these posts – again, less work for recent graduates.

Many newly-qualified graduates are looking to Britain to find work. Mary Keane, principal teacher with Christ King Girls’ Secondary School in Cork, says that she has given a number of references to UK recruitment companies hiring Irish teachers. Four teachers who carried out their training practice in her school have relocated to England. Many other teachers are moving to Australia and Canada.

The one glimmer of light for newly qualified teachers is the high number of retirements. In all, 1,628 teachers are expected to retire this year – an unusually high figure prompted by the previous government’s decision to pay a higher pension benefit until February 2012. Many are expected to leave the system by next Christmas,

Demographics may also help. Since 2003, the population increase has led to a 24 per cent increase in the number of primary teachers. Inevitably, the number of second-level teachers must also increase.

An additional 16,000 students are projected to enter the post-primary education system within the next three years, which will translate into jobs for teachers. But the current situation remains grim.

AT A GLANCE

Teacher shortages

Irish, languages

Teacher surpluses

Business, English, History

Temporary teachers

7,000 second-level teachers

Young teachers

A Teachers Union of Ireland survey found that 75 per cent of teachers under the age of 30 were on temporary contracts

WHO APPLIED WHERE

Christ Kings Girls’ Secondary School, Cork

Principal: Mary Keane

Vacancies within past year: Two full-time teaching jobs

Number of applications: 20 for each

Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Principal: Patricia McDonagh

Vacancies within past year: Seven part-time or fixed term contracts

Number of applications: Over 200

Causeway Secondary School, Tralee, Co Kerry

Principal: Anne Marie O’Connell

Vacancies within past year:

Three maternity covers

Number of applications:

One for Irish; eight for science; three for a careers and English vacancy

John the Baptist Community College, Limerick

Principal: Tim Twohig

Vacancies within past year: 8

Number of applications: 600 (combined)

Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Sligo

Principal: Sister Mary Kelly

Vacancies within past year: 0