PRIMARY school teachers have threatened to refuse to work in the same school as unqualified staff from September.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) yesterday delivered the ultimatum by fast-tracking a ban that they had not planned to implement until 2013.
It prompted a positive response from EducatIon Minister Ruairi Quinn who promised to consider the union's idea of panels of qualified teachers from which principals could source staff for substitute or temporary work.
The INTO decision to bring forward their boycott followed revelations in the Irish Independent this week showing hundreds of persons with no teaching qualifications working in primary schools.
The figures prompted an unscheduled debate at the INTO conference in Sligo yesterday, ending with overwhelming backing for the September boycott.
Newly-qualified Alan Bedford, who has not been able to get enough work to do his 170-day probationary period, gave a sense of their outrage at the use of the phrase "unqualified teacher" when he declared: "I am unqualified pilot."
The only speaker against the motion, Sean Ó Hargáin, principal of Gaelscoil Osraí in Kilkenny city, said it would make life impossible for principals.
He said he recently made 15 phone calls to subs over a 40-minute period and could get nobody to fill in for two absent teachers.
"The only other option I had was a third-year university student who is a past pupil who was available to come in that day. It broke my heart to do it but that's the reality of the job principals have to do on a daily basis."
The INTO leadership has been instructed to notify the Department of Education and school managers that, from September 1, all INTO members will be directed not to work to unqualified personnel in any teaching capacity. The previous 2013 deadline was set at the time of a teacher shortage.
While Mr Quinn said that hiring staff was a matter for principals, he moved closer to the INTO on the panels idea. He also said he hoped, by September, to enact legislation outlawing unqualified teachers.