Thursday, 19 October 2017
Department of Education and Skills
96. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the shortage of supply of substitute teachers in primary level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44419/17]
99. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact many schools are experiencing great difficulties in securing substitute teachers to provide cover when teachers are absent; the action he is taking to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44512/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 99 together.
In overall terms, my Department has no evidence of a recent or current shortage of primary teachers. As the Deputy is aware, we increased the number of primary school teaching posts by 1093 in 2016/17 and schools have filled those positions. For the current school year, we increased the number of posts by 1160 and the process for filling these positions is almost complete. I am, however, aware that some schools have experienced difficulty in recruiting adequately qualified substitute teachers, and I am committed to examining all possible means of addressing this issue.
The final report of the Technical Working Group on teacher supply, ‘Striking the Balance’ was published on 9 June 2017. The report focusses on the development of a model of primary teacher supply, while outlining the work which will be required to establish a sustainable long term model of post primary teacher supply. In considering the model of teacher supply at primary level the report took account of many variables, including the number of additional teachers required to cover for teacher absences, such as illness, maternity leave, career break or secondment.
The report sets out an approach to planning the work necessary to develop a model for achieving a better balance between teacher supply and demand in the medium to long term.
Officials of my Department are now considering how the development of a model can be progressed, from within available resources. The necessary actions will include engagement with the HEA in order to ensure that the supply of teachers meets demand and there is the correct balance of teachers in each of the various subject areas at post primary level, as well as measures to address data requirements, particularly at post primary level.
The Deputy will be aware that, in conjunction with the publication of the report, I announced a number of measures to increase the pool of teachers available to schools, in particular to fill short term vacancies. With regard to these measures, my Department informed all teachers retiring in 2017 that in order to remain eligible for employment in a state funded teaching post for a period of more than five consecutive days or to supervise the State examinations, a teacher must maintain his/her registration with the Teaching Council. In that regard, the Teaching Council also reminds teachers, through the renewal of registration process and where a teacher indicates that he or she is considering leaving the register, that if they wish to continue to work as a teacher following retirement in substitute and other positions they should maintain registration.
The Deputy should note also that my Department has increased the limits for employment while on career break at post primary level to a maximum of 300 hours in a school year and at primary level to a maximum of 90 days in a school year. The matter of the employment of B Ed and PME students in limited circumstances on a short term basis is still under consideration in my Department.