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(Ireland) Classes may be sent home due to teacher shortage

Nov 18, 2022, Irish Times: Principals warn classes may be ‘sent home’ unless supply of teachers improves https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2022/11/18/principals-warn-classes-may-be-sent-home-unless-supply-of-teachers-improves/

Norma Foley acknowledges ‘difficulties’ facing schools in sourcing teachers

Primary school principals have warned that classes could end up being “sent home” due to an acute shortage of teachers.

Páiric Clerkin, chief executive of the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), said a survey of members found that more than 80 per cent of school leaders are struggling to plug staffing gaps by redeploying their special education teachers to mainstream classes.

While there have been initiatives aimed at boosting the supply of substitutes and teachers, he said the reality on the ground was that “teachers are not there at the moment” and long-term teaching posts are going unfilled across many schools.

In some cases, he said, newly created teacher supply panels – aimed at ensuring schools have easy access to substitutes at short notice – are empty….

Mr Clerkin said, to loud applause, that money being saved by the State due to the lack of substitution cover should be reinvested in innovative schemes to ensure vulnerable children do not lose out due to the redeployment of special education teachers.

When asked by reporters if she would consider re-establishing a “banked hours” initiative, to provide a catch-up service for children with special needs Ms Foley said: “We are not looking at it, at this point.”

This option, she said, meant children were missing out, so she said her department’s focus was on “broader” measures which will be explored in conjunction with education partners. The IPPN’s annual conference heard that staff shortages have reached a “critical” point in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare.

More than a quarter of all schools who responded to a recent survey by the network said they did not have their full staffing quota, while many positions on supply panels of substitute teachers are lying vacant.

The conference also heard concerns over a “wave of mental health” issues among children, many of whom are waiting for access to specialist support.

Minister for Education Norma Foley acknowledged that there are “difficulties and challenges" sourcing teachers, particularly in urban areas. Photograph: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie