The Minister knows the importance of this issue for so many young people who have decided to make their career in the noble profession of teaching. When I became a primary school teacher 13 years ago, there were not so many people who were willing to take on that career. It was difficult to find people who wanted that career and to give of their time and expertise and involve themselves in that vocation. However, times have changed.
Unfortunately, in my constituency office I am encountering a number of not just students but also their parents who are extremely anxious about the future young teachers have in our system. It is not that they are asking me where are the jobs. Obviously, there have been changes in the training schedule for teachers. There are new online courses to which the previous Government gave recognition. That is fair enough and we are where we are in that regard. We have a number of newly qualified teachers but we do not have jobs for them. That is a fact. It might change over time because of the number of students coming into the system, which is expected to be nearly 70,000 over the next few years. That gives some hope.
However, the problem is not just the inability to obtain employment, but also the inability to even get probated. After a three year degree it is necessary to spend almost a year in the classroom to be inspected and given one's diploma, or what is known within the profession as the "dip", to be properly probated, after which one can become a fully permanent teacher. The students I have encountered are dying to get into the classroom and have their own class, but they must be probated before they can seek employment within the system. It is devastating for them that they cannot even get their foot in the door. We have discussed previously what is happening in the system. It is an issue across Ireland. When a teacher takes maternity leave or where a long-term substitution is required, it is not the newly qualified teacher who tends to be called immediately, but a retired teacher or somebody well known to the school. The problem is that the new teachers who need to get into the system to be probated and have the chance to be more employable are not given that opportunity.
I wish to put this on the record of the House and to discuss with the Minister ways of overcoming it. It is not necessarily simply the responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills. Obviously, teacher unions, management bodies and the patrons who oversee those management bodies have a role. Nobody wants a situation where newly qualified teachers who simply want to get started on their teaching career cannot even get the most basic validation of their teaching qualification, being probated in a classroom, from which they could move on and, hopefully, get their teaching career started. Ireland is going through a difficult time and we have a difficulty in financing the type of teacher body we require. Everybody accepts and understands that the bulk of what we spend on education goes on pay. However, for the dreams and aspirations of these teachers, not even being able to get started at the first point on the scale is something that must be addressed. I look forward to the Minister's comments in that regard.