Sunday 19 November 2017

Teacher shortage worsens for Stem subjects

The shortage of qualified teachers for second-level schools is getting worse for a number of subjects, including the critical area of maths. Stock Image
The shortage of qualified teachers for second-level schools is getting worse for a number of subjects, including the critical area of maths. Stock Image
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The shortage of qualified teachers for second-level schools is getting worse for a number of subjects, including the critical area of maths.

It means that growing numbers of students are being taught by teachers who are not properly trained in the subjects effected.

For a number of years, schools have been reporting difficulties in recruiting qualified teachers in Irish, home economics, modern languages and science - but now maths and other areas have joined the critical list.

The issue will be raised at the annual conference of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS), which opens today.

Speaking ahead of the conference, ACCS president Antoinette Nic Gearailt said the impact on schools and classrooms could not be overlooked.

She said principals were being forced to employ teachers who were not qualified in the subjects, or retired teachers as in many instances there was no alternative.

"Principals are acutely aware that students may be taught by unqualified teachers in their final preparation for State exams. Schools are managing as best they can," she said.

"The net result is that the quality of teaching and learning is at serious risk of being compromised through no fault of the school."

The ongoing rise in second-level enrolments means that the challenge is growing on two fronts - as increasing numbers of pupils translates into a need for even more teachers.

Shortages in areas such as maths and science fly in the face of aspirations in the recently published expert report on education in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem), following which Education Minister Richard Bruton said he would make the delivery of Stem teaching by qualified teachers a priority.

A report from the Teaching Council found that, alongside an under-supply of teachers in some subjects, in others, such as English, there is an over-supply, but there is no central mechanism for matching the overall requirements of schools with output from teaching degree programmes,

Mr Bruton's Action Plan for Education 2017 commits to progressing its recommendations around planning for teacher supply, but he said recently that a proposal to build a database would be expensive and that he was not in a position to do that this year.

Irish Independent

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