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Minister refuses to ban unqualified teachers

PEOPLE with no teaching qualifications will still be allowed to work in schools from September, despite a new crackdown by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.

New rules announced by the minister yesterday are an attempt to ensure that only qualified teachers are employed in schools.

But there is a let-out clause that will allow a principal engage an unqualified person for up to five days if it is not possible to find a teacher.

The scandal of the unqualifieds was exposed by the Irish Independent last month, with figures showing that 400 persons with no teaching qualifications worked in primary schools for at least 50 days between September and February.

In the same period, up to half of all 3,200 primary schools employed unqualified teachers for up to a week.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), which has threatened not to work alongside unqualified staff from September, is furious the minister hasn't imposed a blanket ban.

"Far from directing schools to employ only qualified teachers, the minister has legitimised schools to hire unqualified people as teachers," said INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan.

INTO is concerned about how the use of unqualified staff impacts both on children's education and job opportunities for newly qualified teachers, 2,000 of whom are graduating this summer.


Ms Nunan said last September Mr Quinn agreed with INTO analysis about not allowing unqualified people to continue to work in schools.

"Now he has gone ahead and actually provided for it," she said.

Ms Nunan says while he has "the right intention, this is the wrong approach".

The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) was more conciliatory and said it was a "small step in the right direction".

Under the new procedures, schools will be required to maintain lists of qualified teachers available at short notice and teachers can apply to be put on the list. This is similar to what already happens, although principals will be required to keep the list updated. If, despite its best efforts, a school can't find an unemployed teacher for temporary or substitute work it can employ an unqualified person for a maximum of five days.

Mr Quinn said it was only in "extremely limited circumstances" that it may be necessary for a school to engage an unqualified teacher.

Irish Independent