Retired teachers in record return as graduates jet to Gulf jobs
A record 893 retired teachers were working in our schools last year - as young graduates flock overseas to earn tax-free salaries of €60,000 across the Gulf region.
The escalating crisis hitting the "substitute pool" continues to deepen as a growing number of young teachers seek work abroad.
A new Mecca for young graduates is the Gulf region, where they can enjoy a generous tax-free income, plus 'add-on' perks. This latest trend comes as figures secured by the Sunday Independent show the reliance on retired teachers continues to soar.
And Education Minister Richard Bruton is currently considering a further easing of the restriction on the use of retired staff in second-level classrooms, to deal with a shortage of temporary teachers in a number of key subjects.
This is in addition to problems at primary level, where many schools also say they are struggling to find substitutes to cover short-term absences.
These latest figures reflect a growing dependency on retirees to fill emergency and short-term cover in the schools sector.
During the last school year, 2015-16, a total of 893 retirees were employed in classrooms across the country. This compares with 560 during the 2014-15 school year. In 2013-14, the corresponding figure stood at 537.
A breakdown of the figures show 279 employed in the post-primary sector during 2015-16.
In 2014-15, the figure stood at 240 - which had increased from 235 in the previous period.
Second-level schools are particularly struggling to find qualified staff in Irish, European languages, and home economics. However, there is an oversupply of English, history and geography teachers.
Meanwhile, the number of retired staff employed in the primary sector has soared.
In the latest school year, the figure stood at 614.
Just a year earlier, during the 2014-15 academic year, 320 people were drafted in to fill gaps in schools.
This compares with 302 retired educators employed during 2013-14.
Despite teachers still finding it difficult to secure permanent employment, depending on the type of school, location, and subject choice, major change is under way when it comes to temporary and "fill-in" jobs.
Garrett O'Dowd, of Teach and Explore, recruits qualified staff to work in primary and second-level schools across the UAE, and other Gulf locations. He says they are inundated with enquiries from young teachers, and currently have about 700 on their books.
Depending on experience, teachers can earn anything from €2,000 to €5,500 per month tax free. Mr O'Dowd says a 30-year-old Irish woman was recently offered €7,500 a month to teach English in an 'early years' school in Hong Kong. "There was a housing allowance of €1,200 built into that offer. It's taxed, but that salary is one of the biggest we've seen so far.
"High-end schools in China offer similar pay - but it's not as attractive as other locations. Many people buy a car because running costs, including insurance, are very low. It can be sold on for very close to what a person paid for it. On top of that, teachers can get paid-for flights and medical insurance - plus transportation to and from school each day," he said.