Severe staffing shortages to result in schools sharing teachers
The ASTI has described the shortage of staff at second-level as "critical".
From September onwards, Irish secondary schools are set to share teachers across a number of high-demand subjects, due to severe staffing shortages.
With unfilled vacancies in almost half of the state's secondary schools, a Red C poll conducted this week highlighted that as many as 80% of principals and deputy principals have had to hire unqualified staff to keep schools functioning at capacity.
In response to these acute staffing issues, Minister for Eduction Norma Foley has announced the introduction of a new scheme from September, which will allow two schools to work in conjunction with one another as they seek to recruit teachers.
The scheme would see newly-hired staff offered full-time contracts, but have their teaching time split between two schools.
These teachers would specialise in high-demand subjects, such as maths, Irish, science and modern languages.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education has said that the scheme will initially be brought into place at a number of secondary schools, with the intention of a larger scale roll-out if proved successful.
"The department has been in close consultation with the management bodies in the development of this pilot", the spokesperson said.
However, a number of representative bodies have argued that the scheme doesn't go far enough in alleviating the pressure of shortages on current staff members.
Criticism of the scheme:
The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has labelled the new scheme as a "minimalist measure", with its General Secretary arguing that it "won't make a dent" in staffing shortages.
"Because of the practicalities around it, it’s unlikely to have any major impact anywhere in relation to the critical crisis we have in relation to recruitment and retention", the ASTI's Kieran Christie said.
The General secretary went on to add that "While the measure is worth a try, it won’t have beyond a minuscule impact on the problems that need to be addressedWhile the measure is worth a try, it won’t have beyond a minuscule impact on the problems that need to be addressed".
Sighting the need to first rectify the issues which are causing the staff shortages in the first place, Mr. Christie called for an alternative approach to be adopted.
These issues include lack of upward mobility within the teaching system, the contentious 25 point pay scale and also the urban-centric issue of finding affordable accommodation.
A further scheme initiated by the Department of Education to lessen the extent of staffing shortages includes allowing retired teachers to return to work as substitutes.
Teacher union conferences are due to take place this coming week, where these new measures will be discussed in greater detail by their members.
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