Teacher shortages in post-primary schools are set to worsen as student numbers rise, a principals' leader has warned.
Schools are already experiencing severe difficulties in the recruitment and retention of teachers across the full breadth of subjects, said Stephen Goulding.
With about 36,000 more pupils expected in post-primary schools by 2024, some 2,000 extra teachers will be needed to maintain the current pupil-teacher ratio.
Mr Goulding, a principal in Listowel, Co Kerry, and president of the Principals and Deputy Principals' Association (PDA) of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), said schools regularly advertised posts that often failed to attract suitably qualified applicants, and in some cases, there may not be any applications at all for posts in particular subjects.
While the cost of purchasing or renting property in Dublin has been blamed for vacancies and lack of applications for jobs in the capital, Mr Goulding said teacher shortages were a problem all around the country.
"Teacher recruitment and retention problems inflict severe damage on the education system.
"Students miss out on subject choices and experience a fractured service as a result of having several different teachers in particular subject areas," he told the PDA annual conference.
Mr Goulding called for a time frame for restoration of full pay equality for new and recent entrants to the profession "so that the profession can remain attractive to the best graduates".
The PDA represents principals and deputy principals in almost half the country's post-primary schools - those in the education and training boards (ETB) and community and comprehensive sectors.
Mr Goulding's is the latest voice in education to reflect a growing concern about the lack of full-time or substitute teachers, mainly felt in modern languages, Irish and home economics, as well as Stem subjects, such as maths.
Last month, National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) president Angela Keane said that many post-primary schools opened without a full complement of staff this year, prompting some parents to send children to grind schools for extra tuition, creating an unfair divide between the 'haves and have-nots'.
A Department of Education-appointed steering group is overseeing an action plan to address the shortfalls.
Measures announced so far include an extra 250 places on post-primary teacher education courses, between 2017 and 2019, and a relaxation of rules around career breaks.