Thursday 17 October 2019

Panels of unemployed teachers appointed in areas facing shortages

(stock pic)
(stock pic)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Panels of unemployed teachers are being appointed in six areas to help tackle the crisis facing the country's primary schools in finding substitute cover at short notice.

The scale of the problem facing primary schools can be gauged by the 47,312 sub days worked by 1,240 retired primary teachers in 2018-19 - up from 33,093/1,003 in 2017-18 and 5,259/302 in 2013-14.

A survey by the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association two years ago found 90pc of schools had difficulty finding a sub.

The initiative announced by Education Minister Joe McHugh today means full-time contracts for up to 18 teachers, who will each work with a cluster of schools providing sub cover.

It gives a degree of certainty to schools facing growing difficulties sourcing subs to fill vacancies caused by sick leave and maternity leave.

Teacher supply panels were previously trialled but abandoned in the early years of the recession. They were considered expensive and ineffective, a view that continued to be held by the Department of Education up to last year.

But, faced with a severe shortage of subs available to primary schools, the pilot has been set up. Advances in technology, such as WhatsApp groups, make communication between schools and teachers easier and instantaneous, making for greater efficiency.

There will be about 15 schools in each cluster, with a total of 90 benefiting. Up to three teachers will be assigned to each cluster, operating in north and south Dublin, Co Kildare, Co Meath, Cork city and Co Galway.

The hope is that the full-time contract on offer - initially for a year - will be an incentive to teachers to stay in Ireland, rather than emigrate.

Mr McHugh said it was "about trying to find clever and efficient ways of giving a qualified teacher security of work and ensuring they fill as many vacancies across a number of schools."

He said the six areas were selected based on data which demonstrated they have the greatest challenges.

If a sub is not required on a given day in the cluster, supply panel teachers must make themselves available to cover absences outside the cluster.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) has been calling for the re-introduction of supply panels since they were abolished in 2011.

INTO general secretary John Boyle said: "Teacher supply cannot be planned without an organised system to fill the daily vacancies, therefore supply panels are not an add-on but a critical and essential part of the education service."

Irish Independent

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