Teacher shortage: More than half of second-level schools have vacancies, says ASTI

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Katherine Donnelly

More than half of all second-level schools have unfilled vacancies, according to a new survey.

The survey was undertaken last month when 55pc of principals reported that that they had unfilled vacancies at that time.

More than eight in 10 (84pc) principals said they had experienced situations that during this school year where no teacher applied for an advertised post.

The survey of more than 2,500 teachers was conducted by RedC on behalf of the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI).

According to the ASTI, principals identified a number of factors which they believe are impacting on teacher shortages..

Chief amongst these were inadequate numbers of teachers graduating in certain subjects, the cost of the two-year Professional Master of Education (PME) and the decline in the attractiveness of teaching.

ASTI President Eamon Dennehy blamed continuing two-tier pay scales, with teachers recruited after 2010 on lower rates, as he announced that union members were forgoing a general 1pc pay rise in order to prioritise an increase for this group.

He said the survey results were evidence of the “fruits of a short-sighted government decision to de-value the work of teachers. Teaching is not sufficiently attractive anymore largely due to demoralising unequal pay.”

Mr Dennehy said Ireland was fortunate to have a high performing education system, but the country was at a critical point.

“The Government must act now to end unequal pay and address recruitment and retention difficulties in schools. You cannot value education if you do not value teachers.”

The survey also found that over a third (34pc) of classroom teachers rate their wellbeing as poor and less than a third (28pc) rate their wellbeing as good or very good.

Teachers surveyed say workload and work intensity are the main factors impacting their wellbeing.

The ASTI said it was alarming that job satisfaction amongst teachers had dropped from 63pc in 2021 to 50pc 2022.

The right to disconnect from school e-communications after the school day was identified as the top priority for improving teacher wellbeing.

Teachers also believe that more professional time during the school day - that is less teaching time - and smaller class sizes would improve wellbeing.

Mr Dennehy said recent ASTI research demonstrated that large classes were the norm across a range of Junior Cycle subjects.

Large classes by definition meant “increased workload for teachers in terms of preparation for the class, setting and marking homework and record keeping,” he said.

Mr Dennehy said the key recommendation from teachers for a safe working environment post-pandemic was smaller classes, with 77pc saying this should be a priority.

Adequate work space for teachers was also important (71pc) as were having a strong cleaning regime (67pc) and improving air quality in schools (58pc), he said.

This article has been amended on April 14, 2022.