No room for teachers on expert group

 

Sir, – I am not holding my breath waiting any positive outcomes from the so called expert group set up by the Minister for Education to address the current teacher supply and recruitment crisis. This group is described on the Department of Education’s own website as “a specialist group of stakeholders” but it is nothing of the sort and is anything but representative of the main stakeholders in our education system. It defies belief and logic that not a single representative of our 70,000 teachers was invited to attend and that space for the views of any of our 385,000 students nor a single parent could be accommodated. The committee is instead packed with spokespeople from the Department of Education and certain third-level institutions.

On reading the brief that this non-representative group has been given it is clear to see that its mission is to pick around the edges and not to address in any way the main reasons for the current teacher recruitment crisis.

The fact is that teaching is no longer considered a good career by graduates.  

Applications to second-level teacher courses dropped by a massive 62 per cent between 2011 and 2017 and our newly qualified teachers are leaving the country in record numbers. The reasons for this sharp decline are easy to understand.

The workload for our educators has risen dramatically over the last decade or so. It seems that every few months or so the Department of Education rolls out a new initiative, policy or plan for classroom teachers to implement without any thought as how these will fit into the overall schedule. 

New entrants to teaching are still on inferior pay-scales which are reduced well beyond the cuts endured by all public servants. Younger teachers are on significantly lower pay-scales than their longer-serving colleagues, despite carrying out exactly the same duties. 

At second level, obtaining a permanent and pensionable job is becoming a rarity rather than the norm, and the lack of full-time jobs for recently qualified teachers is damaging education and creating instability in the classroom. Where once teachers applied for full-time, permanent positions, now they apply for fragments of jobs with little guarantee of employment from year to year.

Newly qualified teachers are forced to pay into a pension scheme that they are unlikely ever to get a net benefit from unless they live well into their 90s.

These are the main reasons why many schools are finding it near-impossible to find teachers across a range of subjects and it is only by addressing these issues that a solution can be found. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN P McCARTHY,

Killarney,

Co Kerry.