Additional investment has allowed the successful recruitment of over 5,000 additional teachers in the last two years. Since 2012/2013 there are 8,900 more teachers in our schools. No other part of the public service has seen this sort of growth, which is testament to the Government’s commitment to education and its importance in fulfilling our national ambitions.
The numbers of graduates from initial teacher education programmes have also remained broadly constant. Over 8,000 primary and 7,800 second level teachers have graduated in the last five years and in 2018 it is estimated that approximately 1,870 primary and 1,523 post primary teachers will graduate.
However, I fully acknowledge the concerns that have been expressed about teacher supply.
Last Friday I announced the suspension of restrictions on substitution limits for teacher on career break. Schools have also been reminded that, in considering career break applications, the needs of pupils should take precedence and they must take account of the availability of appropriate qualified replacement teachers.
At post primary level, we are examining the operation of the PME and considering the introduction of subject quotas, targeted at areas of shortage. We are also considering the introduction of “top up” or conversion courses to upskill teachers. I have also stated that I want to double the number of second level teachers training at undergraduate level.
I will shortly be announcing the establishment of a Teacher Supply Steering Group to implement a strategy for teacher supply. As part of its remit, the group will consult with key stakeholders.
In 2018 I will also ask the Teaching Council to review subject criteria and processes for assessing overseas qualifications and to engage more with graduate fairs and final year students.
There is no evidence available to suggest that substitution issues are impacting more on urban or rural areas. The 5,000 teacher successfully recruited in the last two years have been both in rural and urban schools.