Childminders used in schools amid teacher shortage as hundreds head for Middle East
Childminders with no teaching experience are being used for classroom supervision because of chronic staff shortages.
And school principals are increasingly stepping in at the last minute for routine teaching duties due to the lack of substitute teachers nationwide.
As staffing problems reach crisis levels in some schools, pupils are being "divided up" on an ad hoc basis, between different classrooms.
There is growing concern this will damage their long-term academic performance.
Learning support teachers are also being relied on to provide emergency cover.
It comes as hundreds of qualified teachers are foregoing Irish classrooms, to take up attractive job offers in schools across the Middle East. Educators with three years' experience can earn more than €5,000 a month tax-free, while compensation for accommodation and health insurance costs are also part of the deal.
Many packages across the Gulf also include return flights home.
Sources confirm that for a growing number of teachers, lucrative positions with primary and post-primary schools in locations such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are viewed as an opportunity to save for a house deposit.
Peter Mullan, of the Irish National Teachers' Union (INTO), says pay inequality has also contributed to a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
The situation will not improve, he added, until the Government addresses a two-tier system, that sees recently qualified teachers earn less than their more experienced colleagues.
"We've reached the situation where people with no qualifications are being used for short-term vacancies, Mr Mullan said.
"These are people that the school would know in the locality and feel they can trust to take care of children.
"Nobody's pretending they're a trained teacher - they're there in a child caring capacity.
"It's something that could have very serious implications for standards.
"Trainee teachers have also been asked to step in, if they're on a study week from college, or a day off, they're being offered the opportunity to go into the classroom.
"Classes are also being split up. For instance, four kids may be put in seven different classes.
"It's very, very disruptive.
"Administrative principals are also filling in.
"Non-classroom teachers and learning support teachers are also being used when there's an emergency.
"They're just doing their best to keep the show on the road," Mr Mullan said.
He stressed pay inequality is a cause of growing resentment and anger.
"When you put that together with the challenges associated with trying to buy a house, it's easy to see why people will head abroad, to get their deposit together.
"Irish teachers are in the shop window: they're recognised as being well trained and seen as being hard working.
"People are coming out of college, they've done four years of teacher-training, and the best they're offered is temporary work."