Monday 16 September 2019

School has to drop home economics as shortages bite in teaching crisis

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A post-primary school has been forced to drop home economics from its timetable for incoming first years as teacher shortages continue to bite deeply.

As a new school year begins, boards of management continue to struggle to fill vacancies in a range of subjects including Irish, modern languages, home economics and guidance counselling.

And with second-level enrolments set to rise for up to a decade - and more schools opening to cater for the surge - the problem may get worse.

Dublin is particularly badly hit, with the cost of accommodation in the capital acting as a deterrent to many teachers taking up, or staying in, jobs in the city and county area.

Schools in disadvantaged areas are also reported to be feeling the pinch in filling vacancies more than others.

Home economics is one of the most popular subjects on the timetable, taken by more than 23,000 Junior Cert candidates this year while it ranked eighth in Leaving Cert sits at 12,002.

Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) general secretary John Irwin cited a school that had dropped the subject for incoming first years as an example of the struggles facing principals seeking to offer and maintain choice for their pupils.

"No one likes dropping a subject," said Mr Irwin.

The school in question is in the Greater Dublin Area and Mr Irwin also spoke about how schools on the eastern side of the country were losing out to the west. He said a recent vacancy advertised by a school in Co Galway attracted 37 applicants, two-thirds of whom were Dublin teachers.

Another school management body, the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents about half the country's post-primary schools, says it is "impossible to get a home economics replacement teacher".

The JMB raised the issue of teacher shortages in its recent pre-Budget submission, singling out the particular problem around home economics, and called for a range of measures to tackle the crisis.

JMB general secretary John Curtis has also pointed to the problem with finding language teachers, at a time when the Department of Education is seeking an increased uptake in the study of foreign languages in schools.

Both school management organisations said pay inequality for young teachers was a factor in the emigration of Irish teaching graduates.

Mr Curtis also expressed concern that the "increasingly onerous recognition pathways" for teachers from outside the jurisdiction were adding to the problem.

Among the other measures sought by the JMB to tackle shortages are a two-year postgraduate course in Irish and modern languages, similar to that provided for maths, to upskill existing teachers in those subjects.

While there has been an increase in both degree courses and places on courses leading to post-primary teaching qualifications, it will take some years for graduates to start flowing.

Irish Independent

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