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Crisis in classrooms as 20pc of maths teachers set to retire

ONE in five of the country's qualified maths teachers are nearing retirement age.

The classroom crisis facing maths is set to get a lot worse if the expected exodus of older teachers takes place in February.

New figures obtained by the Herald reveal that of the 4,100 qualified maths teachers currently registered, up to 730 of them are aged over 55.

Just over 500 of the teachers are aged 55 to 59 and will, therefore, soon be considering their leave from the profession.

And up to a further 230 teachers are aged 60 and over.

The figures have sparked fresh calls on Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to address the issue of the potential serious staff shortages in schools.

The Herald revealed last month that thousands of Junior and Leaving Cert students are facing chaos next year -- with up to 1,000 teachers set to leave the profession by February.

The retirements -- just 12 weeks before the exams -- will come half-way through the school year in order for retirees to safeguard their pension entitlements.

And pressure is continuing to mount on the minister to come clean on the exact number of unqualified maths teachers in secondary schools.

According to a survey of over 2,000 teachers carried out by the Teachers' Council, over 600 of those surveyed are not adequately trained in teaching maths.

Some 596 of the teachers were found to have undergone minimal studies in the subject and 49 teachers have no qualifications in the subject.

Independent Dublin North Central TD, Finian McGrath, who unearthed today's figures through a parliamentary question, said he had "major fears" for children going in secondary school.

He said: "I want to know what exactly is being done to address the different crises we are seeing in relation to the teaching of maths.

"Firstly, is the minister going to ensure that there will be enough maths teachers in our schools given that so many are near retirement age?

"And on top of that, the fact that we have dozens of classes being taught by teachers who are not adequately qualified to do so is absolutely scandalous."

He added: "We keep hearing that we have a maths crisis in this country, well is it any wonder?"

In response, Minister Quinn said: "Recruitment of teachers is a matter for individual schools and therefore it is not possible for me to say how many teachers with maths degrees will be recruited for this academic year.

"However, schools have been directed by my department, as far as practicable, to appoint only appropriately qualified and registered teachers.

"The appointment and deployment of teachers within schools is also a matter for schools themselves."