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(Ireland) Principals "forced" to put special ed teachers in mainstream classes

Nov 18, 2022, RTE: Minister tells principals no plan to 'bank' special education teaching hours https://www.rte.ie/news/2022/1118/1336923-teaching-conference/

The Minister for Education has said she has no plans to allow schools to "bank" special education teaching hours that they cannot currently provide to children due to the chronic teacher shortage.

Primary school principals have appealed for this measure, which was in place during the pandemic, to be reintroduced in order to lessen the damage they say is currently being caused to some of the country’s most vulnerable children.

Across the country, but especially in Dublin and surrounding counties, primary school principals say they are being forced to take special education teachers away from their pupils so that they can replace absent colleagues or fill vacant positions in mainstream classes.

They are doing this despite the fact that the Department of Education said they should not. Principals say the teacher shortage crisis has left them with no option.

The issue is the main talking point at the annual conference of the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) which has been taking place this week in Killarney….

There was some laughter and muttering and groans from school principals when the minister addressed the issue of the shortage of teachers in schools during her address to the conference floor.

Some teachers laughed too when she acknowledged "challenges" related to teacher panels that are supposed to be providing substitute teachers to schools around the country.

Some of the panels in Dublin are empty or only half full because teachers cannot be found to fill the posts.

Nationwide, 83% of schools have had to redeploy special education teachers to mainstream classes according to a survey that the IPPN carried out last month.

The survey found 27% of principals nationwide said they could not fill all the posts in their schools and in Dublin that rose to two out of every three schools.

One Dublin school told RTÉ News that out of nine special education teachers, just two were working in the role, with the rest covering for teacher vacancies and absences in mainstream classes.

A Louth school principal told RTÉ News that out of five special education teachers, two positions were vacant and could not be filled despite advertising the roles twice recently, and two other SEN teachers were teaching mainstream classes.

"There are just no teachers out there", that principal said….

Principals attending the conference however said the minister was "bamboozling" them with numbers and statistics, but that nothing was changing for them.

They pointed out that the Department is saving money when they cannot fill posts or find substitute teachers.

RTÉ News asked the minister how much money was being saved by the Department as a result of vacant teaching posts but Ms Foley declined to address the issue.

Norma Foley said her department was not looking at reintroducing banked hours 'at this point' (File pic: RollingNews.ie)