Quotas won't tackle recruitment and retention issue - TUI

By piofficer, Tuesday, 4th September 2018 | 0 comments

Second-level schools nationwide are struggling to recruit teachers across a range of subjects, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said today. The union has expressed its scepticism about the proposal to introduce quotas for teacher training places – as reported in today’s Irish Times. While it and other measures may merit consideration, it will do nothing to tackle the current crisis.  

With student numbers at second level set to rise by 40,000 within the next six years, the integrity and attractiveness of the teaching profession must be restored now.

The union is calling for urgent action on the issue of discriminatory pay. It is also calling for the award of permanent full- time contracts upon appointment.

TUI President Seamus Lahart said:

‘The introduction of quotas for certain teacher training areas, the effects of which will not be apparent for several years, will do nothing to tackle the current recruitment and retention crisis. As with previous sticking plaster measures, it seeks to tackle the symptoms rather than curing the disease.

With student numbers set to grow by 11% or 40,000 over the next six years, the profession’s integrity must be restored by ending the continuing, disgraceful system of discriminatory pay rates.

Once again, we would question the Department’s commitment to resolving this crisis when teachers are not even represented on its steering group.

Even allowing for an element of flux at the start of any school year, we are consistently hearing that schools are struggling to fill teaching vacancies across a range of subjects. Schools are innovative and will do everything they can to provide the full range of subjects, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

In many instances, spiralling accommodation costs in urban areas are resulting in teachers choosing to seek opportunities in other parts of the country. However, this is only one factor, as we have also had reports from rural areas that similar recruitment issues are arising there.   

What is of even greater concern is that those who might once have considered teaching or have qualified as teachers are simply choosing to work in other professions. For example, large numbers of Home Economics graduates are headhunted by private industry in the agri-food area before they ever stand in front of a classroom, receiving better salaries and job security from the commencement of their careers.

Pay equality

It is no coincidence that since the introduction of pay discrimination in 2011, applications for the postgraduate teaching course (the Professional Masters of Education) collapsed by over 50% - from 2,821 to 1,366. The union has made some progress in addressing this injustice, but until the integrity of the teaching profession is restored by ensuring the colleagues are paid the same rate for carrying out the same work, the situation will continue to worsen at a time when the system can ill-afford it.

Contracts of full hours

In addition, school management must reinstate the previous good practice of offering permanent, full-time contracts of full hours to teachers upon commencement of employment. A TUI survey earlier this year found that just one in five second level teachers commenced employment on a contract of full hours. In such a situation, employments other than teaching  – generally offering contracts of full hours from the get-go -   become extremely attractive. It is within the gift of school management to award contracts of full hours. We urge the Department of Education and Skills to use its powers ensure that this is the norm rather than the exception.’

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