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Dáil Éireann - Private Members Business (Fianna Fáil)
Wednesday 24 January 2018

“That Dáil Éireann, recognising the importance of teachers and valuing the contribution that the profession has made to Irish society —

accepts that:
— a real crisis exists whereby demand for substitute teachers vastly exceeds supply both at primary and second-level schools;

— there are major challenges in Irish second-level schools in securing the right teachers with the right subject combinations, to ensure that all pupils can study the subjects of their choosing;

— pay inequality has contributed to a teacher recruitment and retention crisis that will continue to have severe repercussions for the school system unless it is urgently tackled;

— during this crisis, hundreds of Irish teachers are working abroad on a temporary basis;

— the report of the Teaching Council entitled ‘Striking the Balance - Teacher Supply in Ireland: Technical Working Group Report’, while completed in December 2015, was not published for some 18 months until the matter was raised a number of times in the Dáil;

— the Minister for Education and Skills has been slow to address this issue and was mistaken in his view expressed in May 2017, that his Department ‘does not have evidence of a general shortage of primary teachers, including for substitute teachers’, and that his Department was mistaken in the view expressed in January 2018, whereby it stated that ‘there is no overall problem with teacher supply’; and

acknowledges that:
— problems of teacher supply and supply of substitutes are widespread across Ireland;

— many unqualified persons are supervising children where no substitute teacher can be found;

— all relevant education partners find extreme difficulties recruiting teachers with Gaeilge, and teachers of foreign languages, and as a result schools are reported to be considering dropping language provision, and that fears have been expressed for the future of our national language;

— teachers of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects are in extreme short supply with numbers training to be such collapsing;

— overall applications to become second-level teachers have dropped precipitously, from almost 3,000 in 2011 to just over 1,000 in 2017, with only 600 applications this year as of 9th January, 2018, with an extended closing date;

— the cost to become a teacher by obtaining a Postgraduate Masters in Education (PME) is increasingly expensive and it can cost up to €15,000 to complete a PME;

— that there is no organization of PMEs by the Department whatsoever in terms of subjects and taking up to six years to study to be a second-level teacher is considered unnecessary;

— special schools, special education, children with special educational needs and children in schools serving disadvantaged communities are suffering disproportionately from this crisis;

— the number of teacher retirements is significantly way ahead of Department of Education and Skills forecasts;

— the Ministers’ proposal to recruit homemakers on to Springboard courses to enable them to become teachers has not been acted on and neither has any other proposal of the Minister; and

— the education partners have been vocal during this crisis and have come forward with numerous ideas and solutions; and

calls on the Government to:
— agree a roadmap with teaching unions on how full pay equality will be achieved and in conjunction with that organize a recruitment and advertising campaign aimed at bringing home young Irish teachers temporarily working abroad;

— establish substitute supply panels again at primary level;

— consider, on a temporary basis, allowing teachers who job share to substitute during their days off in their own schools;

— further expand, on a temporary basis, the opportunity for teachers on career break to act as substitutes;

— make it easier for retired teachers to act as substitutes in the short-term, but ensure that this in no way interferes with the normal teaching labour market;

— reconsider the need for a second year in PME programmes;

— rapidly expand undergraduate programmes of initial teacher education  to qualify people to be second-level teachers;

— ensure that teachers based in Northern Ireland can register to teach in the Republic of Ireland in an efficient, economic and fair way;

— ensure that teachers qualified abroad are facilitated into the Irish education system in a reasonable way;

— expedite the work started following the publication of the 2015 Teaching Council Report; and

— establish a body within the Department of Education and Skills working with education partners tasked with coordinating policy matters concerning teacher supply.”

— Thomas Byrne, Bobby Aylward, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, James Browne, Mary Butler, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Lisa M. Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen, John Curran, Stephen S. Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Sean Fleming, Pat the Cope Gallagher, Seán Haughey, Billy Kelleher, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Eugene Murphy, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Willie O'Dea, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Anne Rabbitte, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Robert Troy.