Moves to release student teachers to act as subs in primary schools may involve a switch to evening online lectures for some and a change to end of term assessment dates.
Teacher training colleges told Education Minister Norma Foley today of the type of flexibilities they can offer in order to address the subbing crisis.
The focus of the initiative is to help schools source enough cover to deal with the current unusually high level of teacher absence, due to Covid, and get them through to Christmas
Individual schools are struggling in the face of multiple teacher absences as Covid infection rates surge around the country.
Some schools have been forced to ask classes to stay at home because they didn’t have a teacher on a particular day.
A range of other measures have been introduced to tackle the sub shortage but with the scale of the current demand, the third-level colleges were asked to help out.
The approaching end of term allows certain room for manoeuvre for student teachers to play more of role, but arrangements will depend on circumstances in different colleges.
Already many students out placement as part of their training are extending their stay in schools to provide emergency cover.
Where the use of evening online lectures is being considered, it would mean students would be free to work during the day.
Primary teachers come through two routes - either through a four year undergraduate course or a two year post-graduate courses.
Hibernia, the private college, which offers a post-graduate course, told today’s meeting that some of its final year students are already working as subs and 500 more would be available from next week.
At Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, fourth year students have finished lectures, and they are already subbing.
After the meeting with colleges today, a spokesperson for Ms Foley acknowledged their support and said it was important that students did not feel under pressure to take this work on.
She said student welfare must be to the fore and she did not want their education sacrificed.
Ms Foley said her Department was also continuing to work on other measures to alleviate the situation.
While the colleges are looking at what flexibility they can offer up to Christmas, Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle is seeking their support up to the mid-term break in February.
He suggests that 500 third and fourth year student teachers and post-graduate students (out of a base of 4,000) work in schools for five days each between now the mid-February.
“This would ensure that an extra 500 people would be available each week and would only impact on coursework for these student teachers for a maximum of one week,” he said.
This article was amended on November 23, 2021.