‘Four in five schools have had no application for an advertised post’ - Survey findings confirm worsening teacher supply crisis

By piofficer, Tuesday, 28th January 2020 | 0 comments

A new survey of over 130 second level schools illustrates worsening teacher recruitment and retention difficulties across the country. The poll of over a sixth of the total number of the country’s second level schools was carried out in December 2019 and January 2020 by the Principals’ and Deputy Principals’ Association of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).

TUI members in second level schools, colleges/centres of adult and further education and Institutes of Technology/Technological Universities will take strike action next Tuesday, 4th February over the failure to end pay discrimination, which the Union has described as the single greatest cause of the teacher supply crisis.  

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 97% of schools experienced teacher recruitment difficulties in the previous six months
  • 49% of schools experienced teacher retention difficulties in the previous six months
  • 77% of schools advertised positions in the previous six months for which no teacher applied (Up from 68% in an April 2019 survey)
  • 56% of schools have unfilled vacancies due to recruitment and retention difficulties (Up from 47% in an April 2019 survey)

Commenting on the findings, TUI President Seamus Lahart said:

‘Ahead of TUI’s national strike over pay discrimination next week, these findings make clear the severe damage that the injustice of the two-tier pay system is doing to the education system and the service to students.

Alarmingly, if predictably, the situation has worsened over the time period since the same survey was last carried out in April 2019. The two most damning findings show that almost four out of every five schools advertised positions to which no teacher applied, while over half of schools have unfilled vacancies due to recruitment and retention difficulties.

While schools are always innovative in dealing with challenges and deficits in provision, the level of this crisis is unprecedented. There is no doubt that teacher recruitment and retention problems inflict severe damage on the education system, with students often missing out on subject choices or being taught by ‘out-of-field’ teachers.

Graduates who might formerly have chosen teaching are now looking at different options, with schools in both urban and rural areas routinely struggling to attract applicants to fill vacant positions.

The largest pay discrimination still occurs in the early years of employment, with new entrants to second level teaching earning 14% less on initial appointment and 10% less in the first 10 years than they would have before the imposition of a two-tier pay system. This means that within the first ten years of their career, at a time when key life choices are made, they earn over €50,000 less. Over a 40-year career, they earn over €110,000 less.

The only way to resolve these difficulties is to end the divisive, irresponsible and damaging practice of paying colleagues different rates for carrying out the same work. Irrespective of how the new Government is constituted, a commitment to an immediate ending of pay discrimination must form part of its programme.’

Online survey of principals/deputy principals in 131 schools was carried out in December 2019 and January 2020. 

Additional survey findings:

Subject areas in which most severe recruitment/retention difficulties were experienced – ranked from 1 to 10 where 1 is most severe.

1.         Irish

2.         Home Economics

3.         French

4.         Mathematics

5.         Spanish

6.         Biology

7.         Physics

8.         Chemistry

9.         German

10.       PE

What do you think is the primary cause of teacher recruitment and retention difficulties? (Respondents were asked to rank from four choices)

1.         More attractive options for new graduates in other employments

2.         Discriminatory pay rates affecting new and recent entrants to teaching

3.         The unavailability of contracts of full hours upon appointment

4.         Accommodation costs in the vicinity of the school

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