Tuesday 17 September 2019

Teachers on a career break to help fill gaps as rules relaxed again

Mary Keane: demand for substitute teachers is rising
Mary Keane: demand for substitute teachers is rising
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Rules around career breaks for teachers are being relaxed again this year in a bid to tackle shortages.

The new Department of Education directive to schools advises that restrictions on the employment of teachers on career breaks to fill in as substitutes have been lifted with immediate effect.

A similar initiative was introduced last January, but it expired at the end of the school year and is being re-introduced as part of the longer-term action plan to address teacher supply.

Under normal rules, a teacher on a career break is precluded from taking up an appointment in any capacity in any school, other than in exceptional circumstances, and subject to time limits.

At post-primary level, the maximum time for which a teacher could work as a substitute was 300 hours in a school year, while at primary level it was 90 days.

The restrictions usually attached to the career break scheme are designed to ensure unemployed teachers and new graduates were given priority for substitute work.

But the growing problems faced by both primary and post-primary schools in recruiting teachers, either for particular subjects or to act as substitutes, has forced a shift in policy.

The difficulties recruiting subs at second-level was highlighted at the recent annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).

NAPD president Mary Keane said recent initiatives at second-level meant the demand for subs was increasing, while the number of qualified vetted subs had been diminishing.

In January, the then education minister Richard Bruton announced a series of measures to tackle the growing problem of teacher shortages.

Career breaks for teachers are a matter for individual boards of management, but Mr Bruton rowed in on limiting them, providing guidance to schools.

His note to schools read that a career break should not be granted unless the school is in a position to fill the vacancy that would created.

Applications for career breaks have to be made by February 1, with a decision made by March 1. A steady increase in career breaks - with many of the teachers involved working in the Middle East - has previously been identified as a factor in shortages.

Irish Independent

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