Staff shortages 'biggest hurdle facing colleges'
Staffing shortages are the biggest hurdle facing agricultural colleges, especially the three private colleges of Pallaskenry, Mountbellew and Gurteen.
While there is a staff moratorium across all divisions of Teagasc, Paddy Browne, the State body's head of education, said this could be overcome through the redeployment of personnel.
"We have a duty of care to meet the demands of students who want to train in agriculture that would allow us to prioritise this function over some advisory functions," he said.
This has already happened in Clonakilty, Kildalton and Ballyhaise, where management have succeeded in maintaining staffing levels, even with some natural wastage in teaching personnel.
However, a legal row stemming from the closure of Warrenstown forced Teagasc to give commitments to the Department of Finance not to place Teagasc staff in private colleges again, regardless of staffing requirements.
During the past week, Mountbellew has had one-third of its teaching staff ruled out of teaching for the rest of the year due to medical leave. The college is now struggling to come up with a solution to the situation, which sees them trying to teach more students than they did two years ago with just over half the staff.
A similar situation has emerged in Pallaskenry, where college principal John McCarthy said the school's board of management was looking at trying to sponsor a part-time teacher for the coming year.