SCHOOLS across the Cork South West constituency are facing a recruitment and skills shortage, leaving principals, staff, and parents deeply distressed, according to Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns.
‘The reality of the matter is that the Minister for Education has been sleepwalking through this teacher recruitment crisis and has failed to give it the urgency it deserves,’ said the TD.
Deputy Cairns said from her engagement with schools, it is clear ‘we are at a crisis point when it comes to securing substitute teachers and recruiting qualified teachers for certain subjects at secondary level including core subjects such as English and maths.’
Due to the changes in substitution rules, there are classes being left without a teacher, or even basic supervision, sometimes for weeks at a time, she said.
‘A principal of a West Cork primary school described the dread they feel every evening at the prospect of a teacher calling in sick as they know they’ll have to go through the pointless hoops and merry-go-rounds to try and find a solution,’ said Deputy Cairns.
At second level a principal reported not being able to cover maternity leave after advertising three times and only one candidate applying. who then turned down the job offer, she said. ‘In September, with no teacher secured, a parent who has a qualification from abroad stepped in. Their teaching qualification is not recognised in Ireland, therefore they are currently paid at the unqualified rate,’ she added.
In response to these urgent issues, the Social Democrats brought a motion to the Dáil calling for a range of measures to address the serious shortage of teachers in primary and secondary schools.
‘We proposed 11 practical solutions to tackling staff shortages, including increased use of student teachers in classrooms and measures to deal with the housing crisis, which is impacting teacher recruitment.
‘The motion comes against the backdrop of a recent TUI survey which found that 91% of post-primary schools experienced teacher recruitment difficulties in the past six months, while 61% reported teacher retention issues,’ she said.