Our solution to resolving the acute teacher shortages in the Irish Education system

"Acute staff shortages are impacting in different ways across the primary and secondary system", here is what should be done...
Monday, January 29, 2018 - 23:00

Sir, – We write in response to Carl O’Brien’s article “Teacher shortages risk damaging education, school managers say” (January 8th).

Quite correctly, your reporter identifies a crisis within the Irish education system where “school management bodies and unions have warned in stark terms how acute staff shortages are impacting in different ways across the primary and secondary system”.

The impacts, we learn, are excessive free classes for students, teaching posts remaining unfilled, and, at times, teachers delivering subjects they themselves are unfamiliar with.

One school manager is quoted as noting “the situation managers find themselves in is ‘anybody is better than nobody’. This does not serve students or parents and managers, who know that they have appointed unsuitable staff and end up dealing with legacy issues long after the appointment date.”

Solutions offered are familiar to those of us tuned into current teacher shortages, namely enticements to attract retired teachers into practice, incentives for overseas teachers, and financial weighting for teachers working in Dublin.

There is, however, another solution that is much more accessible, and, we argue, a more appropriate fit. This is that the many graduates of Teaching Council of Ireland-approved teacher qualifications in further education be allowed work in the post-primary school system.

Since 2012, eight Higher Education Institutions nationally have delivered Teaching Council approved initial teacher education courses to university graduated subject specialists graduating approximately 200 teachers a year. These students currently work in a range of further education settings from the Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme, post-Leaving Certificate and youth-reach programmes, to disability education, to prison education. Their experiential competence is highly respected and they teach with cutting-edge methodologies. Yet they are barred from teaching at post-primary level.

These qualified teachers, for whom work is predominantly precarious, are not allowed to teach at post-primary level, despite the fact that those within post-primary schools are free to move between both realms – post-primary schools and further education colleges, without restriction.

In the case of Maynooth University, we have many fine educators amidst our alumni who not only hold a recognised teaching qualification in further education, but hold primary degrees (subject specialism) in subjects that include those your reporter describes as “most pressing”, such as maths and European languages, and Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton describes as “pinch points, such as science, Irish and other languages.” Some of our graduates have also extended their credentials to include masters and even PhD studies. Yet they are currently ineligible to work within the post-primary school system.

We are confident that if school managers were to look towards this cohort of teachers, they would be rewarded with a wealth of experienced, reflective, and highly competent educators who would bring much sought-after expertise to the school sector. – Yours, etc,

Dr CAMILLA

FITZSIMONS,

MICHAEL KENNY,

ANGELA McGINN,

Course Team for the Higher Diploma in Further Education,
Department of Adult and Community Education,
Maynooth University,
Co Kildare,
Ireland.

As published in the Irish Times on 29 January, 2018 available here.