Saturday 22 July 2017

'Shortage of teachers risks fall in education standards'

Stark warning: President of INTO Rosena Jordan speaking at the conference. Photo: Moya Nolan
Stark warning: President of INTO Rosena Jordan speaking at the conference. Photo: Moya Nolan
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A shortage of primary teachers could translate into a drop in education standards, Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) president Rosena Jordan has warned.

She was referring to a lack of substitutes to cover for teacher absences, despite almost 2,000 newly qualified primary teachers graduating last year.

In her keynote address to the INTO annual congress, she said every child was entitled to be taught by a fully qualified teacher, but, increasingly, that was not the case and warned of the risk to educational standards.

"Classes are split, teachers provide cover, retired colleagues are cajoled back or enthusiastic amateurs are drafted in," she said.

Ms Jordan told delegates INTO would not give up on its battle for pay equality for new entrants until it succeeded. Lower pay scales for teachers were introduced in 2011 and 2012 and, for primary teachers, restoration measures already agreed mean, from January 2018, they will be back to about 97pc of the pre-2011 scale.

While the gap has reduced, over a career it still amounts to a loss of about €70,000 for a primary teacher. There is a wider gap, of about 8pc, for post-primary teachers. Both primary and post-primary schools are suffering staffing shortages. One factor - as highlighted in the Irish Independent yesterday - is young teachers going to work in tax-free economies, to save for a mortgage.

A survey by Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) shows almost one in three recent entrants to post-primary teaching believe it is unlikely they will still be in the profession in 10 years. The union says morale has been dented by lower pay rates for new entrants and an increase in workloads

The TUI, which represents more than 16,000 teachers and third-level lecturers, released the findings of the survey ahead of its annual conference, which opens today. Like the other teacher unions, a priority item on the agenda will be an acceleration of pay parity.

TUI president Joanne Irwin said: "Quite clearly, the scandal of pay inequality has had a deeply negative effect on the profession."

Irish Independent

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