My Department is aware of the challenges currently being experienced and has engaged with the education stakeholders on the issues raised about the current difficulty in accessing substitutes for teacher absences.
A range of measures are in place to provide enhanced substitute cover in the context of current challenges.
These include a major expansion of the Primary Schools Substitute Teacher Supply Panels, which now employ almost 380 teachers and provide substitute cover to over 2,500 primary schools across the country. A review of the supply panels has taken place and approximately 100 additional teachers are being added to existing/new areas where significant challenges have been demonstrated in sourcing substitution. Posts have been allocated to the base schools to allow arrangements for the recruitment of additional staff immediately.
The Supply Panels work alongside the existing methods of sourcing substitute teachers, such as the national substitution portal service Sub Seeker , operated by the Irish Primary Principals' Network and developed in accordance with my Department's Teacher Supply Action Plan. Schools can also make local arrangements to have their own regular substitutes to call on if needed.
In addition to the expansion of the supply panels, schools have been asked to combine their allocation of principal release days into clusters so as to form a full-time fixed-term post to cover each school's principal release days
For the current school year, changes have been made to the career break scheme to permit teachers on career break to carry out unlimited substitute work. Changes have also been made to the job sharing scheme to permit job sharing teachers carry out substitute work on the days they are rostered off in their own or in other schools.
The Teaching Council have undertaken a communications campaign to contact the 111,700 teachers on its register to raise awareness to the current teacher substitute challenges and to ask those teachers where possible to make themselves available for substitution in schools and to register on SubSeeker.ie so that schools are aware of their availability when seeking to fill substitute vacancies.
The Council and my Department have also engaged with higher education institutions, who have been requested to be flexible in programme delivery to enhance the availability of PME student teachers to undertake substitution work. PME students have also been advised to register with the Teaching Council and to register with Sub Seeker .
My Department will continue to engage with the education stakeholders on the issues raised about the current difficulty in accessing substitutes for teacher absences.