Not a sustainable path for future of education
THE issue of using the JobBridge scheme to hire primary school teachers is a double-edged sword.
It is a way for schools to deal with overcrowded classrooms at a time of scarce resources.
It has been used in other parts of the public sector, such as government departments, and in the private sector, with a total of 18,000 so far doing internships.
But at the same time, paying young teachers €50 a week on top of their social welfare benefits is not a sustainable path for the future of education in this country.
The INTO says it borders on exploitation and is equivalent to asking teachers who studied hard for their qualification to work for as little as €10 a day.
The best way of illustrating the dilemma is to look at a school in west Cork. Castlehaven National School has one teacher for the 39 children in its junior and senior infants' classroom.
Several of them have special needs – but under the existing pupil-teacher ratio, the school only qualifies for four teachers in total.
Local Fine Gael TD Jim Daly said that parents had specifically asked about using the JobBridge scheme to get an extra teacher to reduce the overcrowding in the infant classes.
But they were told by the board of management that this was not an option because of the INTO's opposition to the scheme.
Mr Daly and the Department of Education see JobBridge as a way for young teachers to get the work they need to become fully qualified.
Anecdotally, teachers will tell you that the Government's new restrictions on sick leave for teachers are reducing the work for substitute teachers.
Teachers in the classrooms are less inclined to take days off for colds and flu and are saving their sick days for serious illnesses, so there are fewer opportunities for "subs".
Without the chance to get substitution work, and little hope of a full-time job, many young teachers are stuck in limbo.
Those who back JobBridge say it is a good way for these teachers to get a foot in the door and gain valuable experience.
In an ideal world, the Government would be hiring more teachers and there would be no need for JobBridge to be used in primary schools.
But there is money in the Budget for 1,400 new primary and secondary school teachers – and no more.