Fury as unqualified teachers get legal right to give classes
TEACHERS were last night furious over government plans to give unqualified personnel a legal right to teach in schools.
The Government insists it will only occur in certain exceptional and limited circumstances -- and only in consultation with management, unions and the Teaching Council, which maintains a register.
But INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said that, given the numbers of teachers unemployed or working elsewhere, it was astonishing that Education Minister Mary Coughlan should even contemplate the employment of non-teachers.
"It is completely unacceptable for a non-teacher to be employed in schools when highly qualified teachers are seeking work," said Ms Nunan.
She said the minister should be making provision for the establishment of supply panels of qualified teachers so that every teacher absence was covered by a fully qualified teacher.
"Children are entitled to be taught by a teacher," she added. "A person with no teaching qualification is not a teacher."
However, the Department of Education said that, despite large number of new teachers graduating each year, the reality facing schools was that it was not always possible to engage a registered teacher due to many factors, including increases in population and the allocation of additional posts.
This explanation caused some surprise last night as it was not clear how the allocation of additional posts would result in schools not being able to find qualified teachers.
Sources pointed out that the number of unqualified teachers, especially at primary level, had come down in recent years and schools were encouraged to hire qualified teachers. Where unqualified people were employed it was often for short periods in emergency situations.
The provision to allow unqualified teachers legal entitlement to teach is contained in a draft Education (Amendment) Bill 2010. The bill also gives a legislative framework to allow vocational education committees to become involved in primary education provision.
This was welcomed by the Irish Vocational Education Association, whose general secretary Michael Moriarty said it would give VECs the flexibility to become patrons of existing national schools.
But Mr Moriarty also expressed dismay over the decision by the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) to retain its directives on meetings after school hours and to ban discussion on the reallocation of vacant middle-management posts.
Talks start today with the INTO and tomorrow with the ASTI on the implementation of the Croke Park agreement but the TUI is excluded because of its refusal to life the directives.
The union had suggested talks through the normal industrial-relations machinery but this was rejected by the Department of Education. It is understood the department wants talks to conclude by the mid-term break, with the proposed changes of an extra hour per week and greater flexibility introduced from November.