14 December 2016

Speaking on a Topical Issue Debate on the shortage in substitute teachers, Labour Party spokesperson on Education Joan Burton TD said:

“According to figures from the INTO this morning, there were only 36 substitute teachers available on their Subsearch facility today nationally. That compares to an average daily total of 400 in previous years. Today’s figures wouldn’t cater for the necessary cover for Tallaght, let alone the whole country.

“The shortage of substitute teachers is a matter of grave concerns to principals all over the country since the October mid-term break and indeed to teachers as we now have teachers offering to come in ‘under the weather’ rather than having their class broken up and distributed among the other classes in the school.

“This poses particular difficulties for teachers in one, two and three teacher schools.

“One principal has describe the situation as follows:

‘Recently I had three sick colleagues and one on a pre-arranged course day. All three absent teachers were on certified sick leave. I made more than twenty calls to my own personal list of substitutes and nobody was available.

I eventually sourced one teacher through the INTO Subsearch facility but she was on her way to a medical appointment with her own sick parent. There were no substitutes available through the IPPN Textasub facility.

This resulted in two of the classes being distributed throughout the school with one class having 39 children for the day. I also had to use two of many learning support staff to cover these classes on the day resulting in potential disruption to children with special educational needs’.

“The shortage of substitutes is having a huge impact on teaching principals as they are increasingly unable to avail of the principal release days which are vital to them for administrative and leadership planning roles in their schools as a result of a lack of substitute cover. It is also impacting on teacher’s ability to participate in CPD for the same reason.

“There is a real danger that the substitute shortage will quickly have an impact on Learning outcomes. We are all justifiably proud of our progress in the PISA standings this week, having improved to being the third best performing nation in the world in terms of reading. Classes of forty children on a regular basis will rapidly undermine this progress.

“The reality is that the current situation is directly related to the issue of pay equalisation. Teachers are being actively recruited by Middle Easter countries, even in teacher education sections of our universities at present. Teachers from large urban areas are particularly concerned at the high cost of living in comparison with their substantially reduced pay. Like the medical sector, we are now in danger of losing a generation of teachers educated at taxpayer’s considerable expense.

“The Minister urgently needs to consider the establishment of a national and regional supply panel as exists in other countries with both substitute teachers and schools having some degree of certainty in relation to their positions. The INTO have long demanded this and it is now a matter of urgency.”

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