Bring them home: Minister plans UAE trip to tackle teacher crisis
Education Minister Joe McHugh is heading to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) within months to talk to Irish teachers about coming home.
As primary and post-primary schools struggle to fill vacancies, it is estimated at least 6,000 Irish teachers are working abroad, with significant numbers in the UAE and the neighbouring states of Oman and Qatar.
Mr McHugh believes many Irish teachers want to come back, and said he needed to understand what had to be done to smooth their return.
The minister said he met Irish teachers working in Hong Kong and Beijing during a recent trip to China and he acknowledged pay inequality was raised as an issue.
Mr McHugh announced his UAE mission, which he hopes to make before the end of July, while speaking to the Irish Independent after his address at the annual convention of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS).
The teacher shortage is one of the main topics of discussion at the convention and ACCS president Paul Fiorentini said schools needed measures which would make a difference on the ground.
He acknowledges initiatives to address the schools recruitment crisis, but said they would only help in the medium to long term.
The shortage often results in second-level schools failing to get any applications for a vacancy and many opened last September without their full complement of teachers.
Worst hit are Irish, foreign languages, home economics, maths and other Stem subjects, and the problem is being most severely felt in the greater Dublin area.
Mr Fiorentini said the shortage remained "among the most worrying and frustrating issues that must be managed week in, week out," and said the problem persisted despite "extreme efforts" by school managements.
The difficulties have been highlighted for a number of years and the Department of Education has set up a Teacher Supply Working Group and announced an action plan to address the issue.
Among the initiatives are extra teacher-training places for key subjects, but it will take some years for those graduates to materialise.
Recently, Mr McHugh asked schools to collaborate in filling posts and, between them, to employ the teacher on a full-time basis.
The ACCS represents 96 schools and Mr Fiorentini told the Irish Independent members were floating a range of ideas they would like explored to tackle the problem in the short term.
Their suggestions include paying teachers to work overtime and allowing retired teachers to take short-term contracts for about six to eight hours a week to deliver, for instance, higher level maths classes for Leaving Cert pupils.
Other suggestions from ACCS members include allowing second-year postgraduate teaching students to teach and paying a cost of living allowance for working in Dublin, although Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe recently ruled out the latter.