Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Questions (180)

Joan Burton


180. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans in respect of a properly structured national panel of substitute teachers to tackle the crisis in teacher substitution at primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4954/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The teacher supply scheme, also referred to as the ‘teacher supply panel’, was discontinued at the start of the 2010/11 school year. The scheme operated on the basis of an additional full-time teacher being allocated to a school to cover certified sick leave absences in that school and a cluster of neighbouring schools. If the teacher was not required on a given day to cover sick leave absences they generally assisted with other work in their school such as administrative duties.

A value for money review of the scheme was published in July 2006. The review found that approximately 60% of these teachers' time was used to cover sick leave absences with the balance on various other school duties. This reflected the unpredictable nature of sick leave absences.  Teachers assigned to ‘base schools’ or as part of a ‘cluster’ were often not available to schools within the cluster, due to the needs or decisions of the base school which retained control over the teaching resource. In addition, teachers who were confined to a cluster were not available to schools outside of the cluster. The scheme proved to be an inefficient use of resources and further restricted the number of teachers available for substitute work across the wider school system.

According to the value for money review, the more efficient and cost effective use of teaching resources is to use the normal substitution arrangements that apply to all other schools to cover sick leave absences instead of having a cohort of full-time teachers "on call" in these schools to cover sick leave absences that may or may not arise.

As the Deputy is probably aware, I will shortly be announcing the establishment of a Teacher Supply Steering Group to develop a strategy for teacher supply. As part of its remit, the Group will consult with key stakeholders. It is intended that the Group will have a comprehensive terms of reference and consider the many issues that relate to teacher supply, including the use of supply panels.