The findings of a new survey of almost 100 second level schools make clear the continuing, severe teacher recruitment and retention crisis across the sector. The poll was carried out in September and October by the Principal and Deputy Principals’ Association of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).
TUI is again calling again for teachers to be employed on permanent contracts of full hours upon initial appointment to alleviate the crisis. Similarly, the restoration of middle management posts must be expedited to facilitate the growing pastoral and academic needs across the sector. The Union has said that it is ludicrous that the TUI does not have a place on the Department of Education’s Teacher Supply Steering Group.
Unsurprisingly, accommodation costs and availability are now key problems.
Key findings of the survey of Principals and Deputy Principals in 94 second level schools include:
- 91% of schools experienced teacher recruitment difficulties in the previous six months; 61% of schools experienced teacher retention difficulties in the previous six months
- 71% of schools advertised positions in the previous six months for which no teacher applied; 61% have unfilled vacancies due to recruitment and retention difficulties
Full findings at end of statement
Commenting on the findings, TUI President Liz Farrell said:
‘The findings of this survey show that the recruitment and retention crisis in second level schools is continuing unabated despite the fact that the TUI has continually highlighted the issue and proposed ways to alleviate the pressure on schools.
Schools have proven that they are consistently innovative in dealing with challenges as they arise, but just 5% of respondents believe that enough is being done at Government level to tackle these critical issues. Overall, teacher recruitment and retention problems limit the service to students, who can miss out on subject choices or be taught by ‘out-of-field’ teachers.
The impact of the accommodation crisis across the country is also having a huge effect, particularly in situations where teachers have contracts of less than full hours. In too many cases, teachers are advising that they cannot secure accommodation, never mind sustain themselves if they do. They simply cannot afford to live in certain areas. Teachers should be awarded contracts of full hours upon initial appointment. Also key to retaining teachers in the profession is a restoration of the middle management structures to pre-cutback levels, particularly posts of responsibility, which provide promotional opportunities within the profession.
In addition, it is ludicrous that there are no teacher union representatives on the Department group tasked with addressing these critical issues. This is something that can be resolved without cost and must be done as a matter of urgency.’
Principals and Deputy Principals’ Association President Adrian Power said:
‘The survey findings show that 77% of respondents reported a situation where a teacher accepted a position only to later reject it, often for a position with a higher number of contracted hours elsewhere. While we completely understand why teachers are forced to do this, it is extremely frustrating and time-consuming for principals and would be easily remedied if schools were facilitated with enhanced allocations that would allow them to offer full hours rather than fragments of jobs.
The highly qualified graduates now entering the profession are often highly sought after in other employments. Full restoration of posts of responsibility in schools would make the profession more attractive while also greatly assisting school principals and deputy principals, who are increasingly suffering from burnout and experiencing little or no work/life balance due to the ever-growing duties associated with their roles.
Even more importantly, posts of responsibility facilitate vital pastoral care support to the most vulnerable students, which is of critical importance given the diverse range of challenges being experienced by our young people in 2022.’
Online survey of principals/deputy principals in 94 second-level schools was carried out in September and October 2022.
Has your school experienced teacher recruitment difficulties over the last six months?
91% stated that they have experienced teacher recruitment difficulties
Has your school experienced teacher retention difficulties over the last six months?
61% stated that they have experienced teacher retention difficulties
Have you had a situation in the last six months where a teacher accepted a position only to later reject it for a position elsewhere?
77% stated that this situation had arisen for them
Generally speaking, have recruitment and retention difficulties become more or less severe since March 2020, when Covid-19 was first detected in Ireland?
87% stated that the situation has become more difficult; 1% less difficult; 12% the same
If your school has experienced recruitment/retention difficulties, please specify the subject area(s). Subjects should be rated '1' for the most difficult to employ a teacher in, '2' for the second most difficult to employ a teacher in etc. Fill in as many subjects as are relevant to your situation.
The ten subjects most difficult to employ teachers in in ranked order were:
3. Home Economics
6. Construction Studies/Woodwork
9. Agricultural Science
In the past six months, has there been a situation where no teacher applied for an advertised teaching post in your school?
71% stated ‘Yes’, that they have had a situation where no teacher applied for an advertised post
Does your school currently have unfilled vacancies due to recruitment and retention difficulties?
61% responded ‘Yes’, that they have unfilled vacancies due to recruitment and retention difficulties
From a list, the following were ranked in order by respondents as the primary causes of recruitment and retention difficulties:
1. More attractive options for new graduates in other employments
2. The unavailability of contracts of full hours upon appointment
3. Accommodation costs/availability in the vicinity of the school
4. Discriminatory pay rates
Are there any factors behind recruitment/retention difficulties that are relevant to your school that are not listed in the previous question?
The two-year Professional Master of Education (PME) was identified by respondents as a key issue affecting teacher supply.
In addition, several respondents cited the administrative burden/paperwork involved in hiring teachers in the ETB sector compared to other sectors as an issue.
Serious issues sourcing accommodation, particularly in urban areas, while principals/deputy principals in schools in rural areas said it can be difficult to attract teachers.
Principals/deputy principals in Gaelcholáistí said that there are significant difficulties finding teachers across all subjects.
Do you believe that enough is being done at Government/Department of Education level to tackle recruitment/retention issues in second level schools?
84% answered ‘No’ – 11% said that they did not know. 5% said they believed enough was being done.