I propose to take Questions Nos. 130, 155 and 171 together.
A range of measures are in place to provide enhanced substitute cover in the context of current challenges arising from the Covid-19 emergency.
These include a major expansion of the primary 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 these additional staff.
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 with teaching principals have also been asked to cluster their allocation of principal release days to form a full-time fixed-term post to minimise the requirement for substitute teachers.
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 has undertaken a communications campaign to contact the over 111,000 teachers on its register to raise awareness to the current teacher substitute challenges and to ask available teachers to register with Sub Seeker, so that their availability is known to schools seeking subs.
The Council and my Department have also engaged with higher education institutions, who have been requested to bring flexibility to programme delivery to enhance the availability of PME student teachers to undertake substitute work. PME students have also been advised to register with the Teaching Council and to register with Sub Seeker .
My Department will continue its engagement with education stakeholders to identify solutions to the current challenges in recruiting substitute teachers.