TUI demands that the disease is treated rather than the symptoms, stating that the crisis of teacher recruitment and retention will continue to worsen unless and until the process of pay equalisation for those appointed since 2011 is accelerated.
The union has warned that short-term measures, such as subsidising teacher training in certain subject areas, are also short-sighted and will not tackle the recruitment and retention crisis afflicting the profession.
Speaking today, TUI President Joanne Irwin said:
‘All education stakeholders now acknowledge that there is an unprecedented crisis in the recruitment and retention of teachers. However, it is regrettable in the extreme, and foolish, that the Government is still refusing to acknowledge or commit to the only guaranteed cure.
Over recent months, there have been various suggestions of measures to attract teachers to particular subject areas, many of which would set a dangerous precedent of prioritising particular subjects based on the perceived and short-term needs of industry at a given moment in time. Most of these measures are no more than gimmicks and have not been fully thought out. Rather than solving the recruitment and retention crisis, some could exacerbate an already dire situation. What they would cost would be better used in accelerating the process of pay equalisation.
Even if graduates were to be lured to a training course in a certain subject area – which is unlikely -, there is no guarantee that they will end up teaching for any length of time, particularly when they will be discriminated against from the get-go in terms of pay. We need both to recruit and retain teachers.
For example, many graduates in Home Economics are headhunted by companies in the agri-food area before they ever set foot in the classroom. Such graduates get better salaries and job security in private industry from the commencement of their careers than they would currently be entitled to in teaching.
Discriminatory pay rates are undermining the teaching profession and have had a devastating effect on morale in the classroom. The education system is clearly suffering. A TUI survey earlier this year showed that 30% of new or recent entrants to the profession did not see themselves in the job in ten years’ time, while the collapse in applications for teacher training courses indicates the severe damage that this unfair system is inflicting on the education system.
The only guaranteed way of ensuring retention of recent entrants to the profession and the recruitment of those needed for the future is to repair the professional integrity of teaching by restoring common pay rates for all.
While there are currently pronounced shortages in the Irish, modern languages, Home Economics and STEM areas, a focus on incentivising specific subject areas would be equivalent to rearranging furniture on the deck of a fast-sinking ship. This is an ever-expanding problem across the breadth of subjects offered and there is only one guaranteed solution to address it.
Pay equality must be urgently prioritised to protect the quality of the education system and to restore the integrity of the profession.’