Education | Teacher shortages and school employment
To ask the Minister for Education the number of teachers who are currently employed at primary level throughout the country; the extent to which this meets requirements at the present time; the ongoing efforts that are being made to address shortages in respect of teachers for permanent and or temporary positions; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Teacher allocations to all schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment on the previous 30 September. The criteria for the allocation of posts are communicated to school managements annually and are available on the Department website.
The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally, irrespective of location.
The numbers employed in our schools have now reached their highest ever level. The number of teachers has increased from 63,635 in 2016/17 to 72,496 in 2021/22, an increase of over 8,800 teaching posts, which includes the allocation for special education provision.
In Budget 2023, I ensured major investment in our schools and I have succeeded in bringing the teacher allocation ratio to an average of 1 classroom teacher for every 23 pupils in all primary schools for the 2023/24 school year which is the lowest ever seen at primary level. This was my third successive Budget which saw an improvement in allocation of teachers to primary schools.
In Budget 2021, I also introduced a three point reduction in the retention schedule, which assists schools that would otherwise be at risk of losing teaching posts. The recent announcement in Budget 2023 will further reduce this retention schedule, by virtue of the one point improvement to the staffing schedule which helps to ensure better teacher retention in primary schools while also ensuring that less pupils are required to retain or recruit a teacher.
My Department runs a comprehensive programme of work to support the supply of both primary and post-primary teachers.
I have allocated significant additional posts to the primary substitute teacher supply panels in areas where significant challenges in sourcing substitution continue, bringing the total to 610 posts on 151 panels, covering approximately 2,800 schools.
The supply panels work alongside the existing methods of sourcing substitute teachers, such as Sub Seeker, the national substitution portal service operated by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network and schools can also make local arrangements to have their own regular substitutes to call on if needed.
Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) will also represent a new source of supply in 2022/23. In excess of 3,400 primary and post-primary NQTs have had their registrations finalised by the Teaching Council to date with almost 40 further applications currently in progress.
The Teaching Council recently made regulations allowing for the registration of 3rd and 4th year undergraduate ITE students under a new registration route, Route 5 (Student Teachers). To date, in excess of 1,200 student teachers have registered with the Teaching Council with a further 70 applications still being processed. Once registered with the Council, such student teachers can be employed by a school to cover substitutable vacancies.
Following engagement with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) who provide programmes for initial teacher education (ITE), put in place new ITE undergraduate programmes since 2019 in a number of post-primary priority subject areas, including Irish, mathematics, computer science and modern foreign languages.
In February 2019, my Department launched a scheme to allow post-primary schools to share teachers in priority subjects. The aim of the circular is to provide a way for schools to recruit teachers in the high demand subjects while also facilitating new teachers with a full time contract.
Turasabhaile is a service developed by the post-primary school management bodies and National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals which matches registered teachers’ resident abroad with post-primary vacancies in schools in Ireland.
The Irish Primary Principals’ Network is also developing a new central portal for the recruitment of teachers to long-term teaching positions in both primary and post-primary schools. It is anticipated that this portal will be available to schools and teachers in the coming months.
The various measures to support teacher supply are underpinned by the Teaching Transforms campaign, which promotes the teaching profession and encourages students to follow a career in teaching. The campaign uses digital, radio and video media, and is supported by a dedicated webpage, www.gov.ie/teachingtransforms.
My Department will continue, with the cooperation of the education partners, to develop and implement measures to address challenges faced by schools and to support the supply of teachers to our schools.
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