Half of schools have unfilled teaching vacancies - new survey of principals highlights severe teacher recruitment and retention crisis

By piofficer, Monday, 22nd April 2019 | 0 comments

A new survey of principals and deputy principals in 120 of the country’s second level schools illustrates continuing, severe teacher recruitment and retention difficulties.

The survey of a sixth of the total number of second level schools in the country was carried out over the past fortnight by the Principals and Deputy Principals’ Association of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).

TUI has said that the findings make clear the urgent need for completion of the pay equalisation process.

TUI’s Annual Congress takes place in Killarney this week.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 94% of schools experienced teacher recruitment difficulties in the last six months
  • 63% of schools experienced teacher retention difficulties in the last six months
  • 68% of schools advertised positions to which no teacher applied over last six months
  • 47% of schools have unfilled teaching vacancies

TUI President Seamus Lahart said that the findings make clear that a continuing system of pay discrimination is having a severely damaging effect on the education system and the service to students.

‘This survey was carried out in recent weeks and was responded to by principals and deputy principals of a sixth of the country’s second level schools,’ he said. ‘It comprehensively illustrates the difficulties that school management are facing on a daily basis. Schools in both urban and rural areas are routinely struggling to attract applicants to fill vacant positions.’

‘Clearly, graduates who might formerly have chosen teaching are now looking at other options.

Progress has been made in terms of addressing pay discrimination, but as the biggest inequalities are experienced in the first few years following initial appointment, the two-tier system continues to have a significant negative effect on the attractiveness of the profession and on the recruitment and retention of teachers.

In this regard, there has been a significant decrease in the numbers pursuing the Professional Master of Education (PME) since 2011.

The only guaranteed solution to this problem is clear - the remaining differences in pay between those appointed before and after 1st January 2011 need to be removed as a matter of urgency. With changing demographics requiring an additional 2,000 second level teachers in the system in the next six years, these problems will greatly worsen unless the right actions are taken.’

Additional survey findings of TUI Principals and Deputy Principals’ Association:

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

1.         Irish

2.         Home Economics

3.         French

4.         Mathematics

5.         Spanish

6.         Physics

7.         Construction Studies/Woodwork

8.         Biology

9.         Chemistry

10.       English

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

Note to editor:

What remains to be achieved in campaign for pay equality?

  • Elimination of the remaining differences in the early points of scale
  • Restoration of the HDip/PME allowance (formerly payable to holders of the Professional Master of Education (PME) qualification
  • Restoration of commencement on point 3 of scale in recognition of six-year (primary degree and PME) training period