Unemployment concern for teachers
Unemployment is the single biggest challenge facing primary school teachers, union leaders have claimed.
The president of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) called on the Government not to consign a generation of young, talented and highly skilled teachers to the dole queues in Ireland or classrooms in other countries.
Jim Higgins said unemployment was an inevitable result of the cuts in school staffing implemented after last year's austerity programme.
Some 700 posts were cut from primary education after the budget, it maintained.
Mr Higgins told the INTO annual conference that while there might not be compulsory redundancies from the Croke Park Agreement, there are collateral redundancies.
"Every qualified teacher forced into emigration or onto the dole queue is a victim of this collateral redundancy," he said.
More than 750 primary school teachers from across the country are attending the convention in Sligo.
Pay, pensions, job prospects of new teachers, cutbacks in resources for special needs pupils and disadvantaged children and the future of small schools are being debated.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday warned delegates further difficult and painful decisions will be made.
But Mr Higgins said teachers could not meekly accept the overnight dismantling of all that was built up in primary education in the last decade.
"We are fully aware of the scale of the economic challenge facing the country," he continued.
"What we cannot do is simply accept that there is nothing we can do but submit to the diktats of the Finance Department."
Launching a task force on teacher unemployment, Mr Higgins said there were thousands of teaching hours available to schools, mainly for pupils with special needs, that can be aggregated into full jobs.
He wants school recruitment - whether for a day, a week, a month or a year - closely examined.
"There are also thousands of substitutable days available to teaching principals that could be turned into full time jobs and there are thousands of substitutable days going to retired teachers and to persons with no teaching qualifications," he added.
The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) and secondary school teachers' union ASTI are also holding annual conferences this week.