Children to be sent home from school as lure of well-paid jobs in Dubai leads to substitute teacher shortage
A severe shortage of substitute teachers means children may be sent home from school due to lack of staff.
High emigration levels among newly qualified national school teachers, lured by secure jobs and big salaries in the Middle East, has created the new crisis.
This week there are just 30 stand-in teachers available nationwide to cover absences across the country's 3,300 schools each day.
This is just a tiny percentage of what is needed. It takes 800 such "subs" to cover the country, according to teachers' union INTO.
They say the system is at breaking point and will mean that schools will be forced to turn away children "sooner rather than later".
Peter Mullan, of the Irish National Teachers' Union, said: "It's a likely scenario. At this time of year, you'd need 800 to 1,000 substitutes a day. Yet there has only been 30 to 40 available daily.
"Schools will do their level best to ensure children can come to school and will make any arrangements they can to facilitate that.
"For example, classes are divided up and shared out to other teachers, learning support teachers may be diverted to take over a class, and principals have been known to go in themselves.
"But the situation is so bad, there will come a time all that won't even work.
"On the grounds of health and safety, they will have no choice but to tell parents: 'There is no teacher for your child. They will have to stay at home.'
"They won't be turned away as they line-up for school, but they'll be sent home with a note in their bag, saying: 'No school tomorrow.'"
Schools use INTO's 'SubSearch' online system to find available supply teachers, but have been frustrated to find there are none.
One Dublin city school principal said: "There are seven teachers off this week. I keep checking Sub-Search but it just keeps returning with, 'There are 0 subs available'."
Mr Mullan added: "Young people can't hang around waiting for work and high rents make it even worse. It means young teachers who have spent four years training in Ireland are heading off to the Middle East, to places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman. Irish teachers are recognised as being among the best in the world and they are in demand."