Bruton backs moves to limit career breaks amid teacher shortage
Education Minister Richard Bruton is backing moves to limit career breaks for teachers in a bid to tackle staffing shortages.
It is part of a suite of measures being announced by Mr Bruton today in the face of growing concerns about teacher supply. Primary schools complain of a lack of substitutes to step in for absences such as career breaks, maternity leave or sick leave.
At second-level, there are difficulties in recruiting teachers in a range of subjects, including Irish, maths, home economics, foreign languages and physics.
Mr Bruton will set out his response at the annual conference of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) today.
Career breaks are a matter for individual boards of management, and school authorities are already considering putting limits on them, but a note going out from Mr Bruton will carry weight.
The note will emphasise that a career break should not be granted unless the school is in a position to fill the vacancy that would be created.
It will concentrate minds in the weeks ahead as February 1 is the deadline for applications, and decisions must be given by March 1.
A steady increase in career breaks - with many of the teachers involved working in the Middle East - has been identified as a factor in shortages.
Mr Bruton is also lifting restrictions on the amount of time a teacher on a career break can work as a substitute.
The minister is proposing a range of initiatives targeted specifically at second-level shortages. The number of places on second-level undergraduate teacher education programmes will be doubled, from the current level of 600, on a phased basis, starting this year.
The Department of Education is also considering ways of introducing subject quotas, targeted at areas of shortage, for both post-graduate and undergraduate courses.
Conversion courses to upskill existing teachers to teach other subjects are in the pipeline, and a steering group is being established to address teacher supply in the longer term.