| 17.4°C Dublin

'Non-teachers' taught thousands

THOUSANDS of primary pupils spent at least half the past year being taught by people without the proper qualifications -- but the Department of Education won't identify the schools involved.

Latest figures show that 164 unqualified personnel worked in a teaching capacity in 152 primary schools for at least 90 of the 183 days in the 2010/11 school year.

However, the department refuses to name the schools on the grounds that it would identify individuals because, in most cases, only one person was involved.

The data was released to the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, which allows for information to be refused where an individual would be identified.

It updates information provided to the Irish Independent in April showing that 400 unqualified people taught in schools for at least 50 days in 2010/11.

A breakdown of the latest figures shows that 46 primary schools employed 50 people with no primary teaching qualifications in a teaching capacity for between 90 and 120 days.

There were a further 114 unqualified people employed in 106 primary schools for at least 120 days, which amounts to two-thirds of the school year.

Most of the unqualifieds were employed in a part-time capacity, possibly working with pupils with special educational needs. Others were working on a full-time temporary basis, such as covering a maternity leave, or as substitutes, covering unexpected absences.

Following a storm of protest over the figures published by the Irish Independent in April, the department is cracking down on the use of unqualified personnel in schools from September, although not entirely banning their use.

New rules will put a responsibility on schools to ensure that only qualified teachers are employed to act in a teaching capacity.


They allow for an unqualified person to be brought in, but only in the most exceptional circumstances, and only for a maximum of five days.

In extreme circumstances, a school will not be precluded from engaging a non-teacher to supervise a class for up to five days.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) is keeping the pressure on and has banned its members from working alongside non-teachers engaged in a teaching capacity from September.

INTO has warned that, from September 1, if an unqualified person is employed as a teacher, it will ballot for strike action in that school, until such time as management ceases to employ the unqualified person.

Apart from the damage to children's education, the INTO is also concerned with maximising the job prospects for the 2,000 newly qualified teachers graduating from training colleges this summer.

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the latest figures on unqualifieds showed that this school year the department had operated a hands-off approach to schools employing persons with no primary teaching qualifications.

Ms Nunan said it was completely unacceptable.

She also said a number of measures to solve the problem would be rolled out next September including the union's revamped "subsearch" facility, a web based tool to match vacancies with unemployed teachers.

Irish Independent