Thursday 23 May 2019

Irish embassy in UAE joins efforts to help bring emigrant teachers back home

Education Minister Joe McHugh
Education Minister Joe McHugh
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Ireland’s embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is getting involved in efforts to help bring emigrant teachers in the Gulf states back home.

It is estimated that there are thousands of Irish graduates teaching in the UAE, at a time while schools in Ireland are suffering severe shortages.

Education Minister Joe McHugh is planning an early visit to the UAE to talk to the emigrant teachers, and ahead of that the embassy is conducting an online survey to build data on numbers involved, what their subjects are and the level of interest in returning home.

Mr McHugh was reminded of the teacher recruitment and retention difficulties  today at  the annual  conference  of  Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing  managers in over half the country’s second-level schools.

JMB president Deirdre Matthews, principal of St Vincent’s Secondary School, Dundalk, Co Louth, told Mr McHugh that the most pressing problem for school leaders was teacher supply.

Second-level schools have particular difficulties recruiting for a range of subjects, including maths and other STEM subjects, Irish, foreign languages and home economics.

As well as permanent positions, Ms Mathews said that filling the gaps on a timetable that arise through teacher absences while on approved leave had been the greatest challenge facing schools this year.

Ms Matthews said it was important that the Minister understood that the crisis now affected all subject areas during the school year.

The Department of Education is working on a number of responses to teacher shortages and Mr McHugh’s planned visit to the UAE is among them.

He believes a lot of the teachers working abroad want to come home and the purpose of the  UAE visit is to find out what they see as the barriers to returning.

One issue is that many of the Irish teaching in the Gulf emigrated with another degree and have done a UK-based online master’s teaching qualification, which is not immediately recognised by the Teaching council.

Meanwhile,  teacher unions say  two-tier pay scales are the biggest disincentive to returning for teachers who qualified post 2010, when pay for new entrants was cut.

Mr McHugh’s trip will probably take place in June and he said today that up to three “ town hall” meetings are being arranged where he will meet teachers and talk to them about the issues involved.

He said today that embassy survey would start next week and continue until May 25.

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