Committee Reports::Report - The Availability of Teaching Staff in Primary Schools::08 December, 2000::Report



Tuarascáil ón gComhchoiste um Oideachas agus Eolaíocht Maidir le hInfhaighteacht Foirne Múinteoireachta i mBunscoileanna

Report of the Joint Committee on Education and Science on the Availability of Teaching Staff in Primary Schools

December, 2000






The primary schools’ staffing crisis situation




Collection of data


Comments from school principals concerning the shortage of qualified staff


Results in tabular form of the survey of national schools


Recommendations to help ensure an adequate supply of recognised teachers in Irish primary schools


Appendix I Questionnaire sent to national schools


Appendix II Cover letter accompanying questionnaire


Appendix III Parliamentary question to, and reply from, the Minister for Education and Science


Appendix IV Minutes of evidence of the meeting of the Joint Committee on 9 May, 2000


Appendix V Minutes of evidence of the meeting of the Joint Committee on 23 May, 2000


Appendix VI List of Members of the Joint Committee


Appendix VII Orders of Reference of the Joint Committee



The first objective of this report is to examine one of the most serious problems facing Primary Schools in Ireland, i.e. the non-availability of sufficient numbers of qualified teachers to fill the vacancies which are continually coming on stream.

The second objective is to recommend certain steps which the Minister for Education and Science could take to remedy this situation.

By way of examining the situation, a survey was prepared and submitted to most Primary School Principals in the country. The correlation of data collected is presented with this report.

To assist this examination and to hear suggestions on the measures needed to remedy the situation, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science heard evidence on Tuesday 9th May 2000 from the following witnesses:

Mr. Dónal O Loinsigh, President, The Irish National Teachers Organisation,

Sr. Eileen Randles, Catholic Primary Managers’ Association,

Rev. John McCullagh, Church of Ireland Board of Education,

Ms. Deirdre O’Donoghue, Educate Together.

The Joint Committee heard further evidence from the following witnesses at its meeting on 23rd May 2000:

Ms. Anne Maguire, Irish Learning Support Association,

Ms. Anne Colgan, National Parents’ Council,

Mr. Gerry Malone, Standing Committee of Primary School Principals of the INTO, and

Mr. Diarmuid Ó Riain, Primary Education Branch, Department of Education and Science.

A special meeting on Tuesday 9th May facilitated by an Irish Sign Language interpreter was also arranged between Deputy Trevor Sargent and Mr. John Bosco Conama, Hon. Secretary of the Irish Deaf Society, regarding the unavailability of teachers for pupils with special needs such as deaf children.

A further meeting was held on Tuesday 4th July between Deputy Trevor Sargent, Rapporteur for the Report and:

Ms. Therése Sheehy, representing Long Serving Substitute/Temporary Teachers in Primary Schools,

Ms. Ann Ryan, Principal, St. Mark’s Junior School, Springfield, Tallaght, County Dublin,

Mr. Ritchie Walsh, Principal, St. Mark’s Senior School, Springfield, Tallaght, County Dublin,

Ms. Mary Molloy, Principal, An Croí Ró-Naofa Junior School, Killinarden, Tallaght, County Dublin.

Ms. Anne Daly, Co-Ordinator, Killinarden Education Network, Tallaght.


(Extract from I.N.T.O. Submission to Joint Committee) Extract A:

“There are 700 unqualified people working as teachers in a temporary capacity in our schools this year. There are also 800 unqualified people doing substitute work on a daily basis. This is a shortfall of 1,500 teachers at the moment. Taking retirement, resignations, disability etc. into account, a minimum of 600 teachers leave the system annually or 1,800 over the next three years. We are also promised an additional 100 jobs as part of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. Therefore, with no additional improvement in the pupil: teacher ratio we would require 4,400 qualified teachers coming on stream over the next three years. In reply to a Dáil Question on 19 April 2000, the Minister stated that approximately 1,900 newly trained teachers would graduate between the 2000 and 2001 academic years. Last year’s intake of 1,283 would be expected to graduate 2002, giving a total of less than 3,200 which if we subtract from the 4,400 required will still leave a shortage of 1,200 teachers in the system up to September 2003.”


1.A nationwide survey to assess the difficulties in sourcing qualified primary teachers when vacancies arise.

2.To compare the experience of national schools under various management categories in rural, urban and semi-rural areas in filling vacancies for teachers.

3.To canvas the views of National School principals concerning the measures needed to be taken by the Department of Education and Science in relation to the staffing of national schools.

4.To indicate the percentage of teachers on career breaks and other forms of approved absence.


Questionnaires (see Appendix I) were sent to all national schools in Leinster and to a random sample of national schools in Ulster, Connacht and Munster. Included with the questionnaire was a cover letter (Appendix II) from Trevor Sargent T.D. and a copy of the Parliamentary Question (Appendix III) concerning this issue posed to the Minister for Education and Science by Deputy Sargent on 1st December 1999. A prepaid/addressed return envelope was also included with the questionnaire.

The information from the replies received forms the basis of the report that follows:

A total of 938 replies were received as follows:













Semi rural refers to schools in a small urban location with a rural catchment area.

Church of Ireland Schools




Roman Catholic Schools









A principal from Wexford comments: ‘I personally believe that the situation has reached crisis point… In November, 1999 it was reported that thirteen permanent jobs were being filled by unqualified people in one district of Wexford… we advertised a position in a national newspaper for three days and had only one reply. That applicant subsequently turned down the offer… the advertising alone cost £500, a large outlay for a small school’.

‘Panels of substitute teachers with proper working and payment conditions need to be extended all over the country…’ This recommendation by a Portlaoise principal was shared by many in the survey.

‘Qualified substitute teachers are impossible to find since 1993/94’, according to one principal who recommended allowing retired teachers to do substitute teaching and still continue receiving their pensions.

One principal reports that in 1993 there were 90 applicants for a permanent position, but in 1997 only 2 applications were received for a similar position, giving the school very little choice in finding the most suitable candidate for their needs. Therefore, ‘a surplus of supply over demand is necessary to weed out incompetents’.

A principal in Dublin believes the problem of sourcing qualified primary teachers is an urgent one and comments: ‘the Minister has announced some measures to ease this problem but I feel a longer term plan is required’.

One school in Dublin had 3 permanent jobs available for several months and no qualified applicants.

One principal remarks that ‘although the Report of the Review Group on the Role of the Principal recommended providing substitutes to release teaching principals for administration work, there are no substitutes available’.

The principal of a school in Dublin believes the problem of sourcing qualified staff is ‘particularly critical for inner city schools… some seven or eight years ago we had 20 to 30 applicants for a permanent position, but now we get only 1 or 2 if we are lucky. Many teachers do not want the hassles of working in inner-city schools…’.

Question 8:

When your school has had a vacancy, has it become more or less difficult in the last three years to find a qualified teacher?

85% of the schools surveyed find it more difficult than three years ago to find qualified teachers (i.e. those recognised by the Department of Education and Science as qualified primary teachers) to fill vacancies. Urban schools were found to have the most difficulty with 94% finding it more difficult to fill vacancies.

Question 9:

Do you currently have any teaching staff member who is not a qualified primary school teacher?

40% of the schools surveyed have teaching staff that are not qualified primary teachers (i.e. those not trained or those with qualifications not recognised by the Department of Education and Science). The highest number of schools with unqualified teaching staff was in the urban schools (55%).

The results of the survey of national schools are set out in tabular form on the following three pages.


1.English speaking teachers recognised as qualified as teachers in their homecountries (e.g. USA, Canada, UK, Australia or New Zealand) should be treated as qualified teachers upon appointment in Ireland and paid as such for three years, during which time such a teacher will be required to acquire competence in speaking and teaching the Irish Language.

2.Recognition should also be afforded to teachers with a Montessori qualification, with the same conditions applying to such a teacher from outside Ireland as proposed as for any English speaking teacher qualified to teach in another English speaking country.

3.The additional expectation that qualified teachers take Irish classes for unqualified colleagues will necessitate a compensation package given the additional workload entailed.

4.A school experiencing a shortage of certain skills amongst some members of staff (e.g. a lack of proficiency in teaching music, Irish, physical education) should have available a grant from the Department of Education and Science to allow a retired teacher to be employed on a part time basis to provide the qualified teaching skills in one or more subject areas as required.

5.Any postgraduate teacher setting out to obtain the Teastas Gaeilge ought to be assisted financially, given that current costs are cited as a disincentive.

6.Pension rights should be possible to accumulate for a recognised teacher where they teach in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland during the course of their career.

7.A Supply and Demand Advisory Committee should be established as part of the Teaching Council to ensure that the required number of trained teachers are always coming on stream. This requirement would include ensuring that adequate numbers of recognised teachers are available to cover for teacher absences through the provision of supply teacher panels.

8.By way of making teaching in multi-class rural schools more attractive, vacancies should be created for resource and remedial teachers to serve a cluster of schools on a permanent basis to be available also as a supply teacher particularly to cover the release time for teaching principals. For example, the Church of Ireland Board of Education have developed detailed proposals in this regard which refer to specific schools in a given area.

9.Greater availability of a ‘conversion course’ for graduates and in particular those with teaching experience is required including a conversion course using distance learning technology.

10.The development plans to expand the capacity in Colleges of Education need to be enacted and given greater urgency. These plans should include a transparent interview process to determine suitability of applicants for teaching.

11.Substitute teachers ought to be paid for both local closing days and vacation days where they have worked before and after the closed days in order to ensure schools retain the same substitute teacher for as long as possible.

12.Student teachers who choose to take up employment as substitute teachers in May and June after the Colleges of Education close ought to be remunerated at a level commensurate with their period of study since finishing second level education.

13.With a view to making the prospect of a job as a Remedial Teacher, Resource Teacher or Classroom Assistant more attractive, the Irish Learning Support Association has made the following recommendations:

(a)The appointment of an ILSA National Co-Ordinator to liaise with the many bodies involved in learning support, including the ILSA membership of 1,200,

(b)Early assessment of children to identify learning difficulties,

(c)Need to improve the modules in Colleges of Education dealing with learning difficulties and a greater availability of in-service and stand-alone courses in this area,

(d)Greater remuneration for teachers obtaining a remedial qualification,

(e)Security of tenure for learning support teachers (outside the ‘last in - first out’ rule for class teachers), given the importance of providing continuity for pupils with learning difficulties.

14.The Department of Education and Science needs to be proactive in attracting suitably qualified teachers who have resigned or retired from primary teaching back into the profession at a point on the salary scale commensurate with factors such as teaching experience, life experience such as time taken to raise a family, age, or other professional experience.

15.The Department of Education and Science needs to be proactive in seeking out well qualified teachers to come to Ireland in conjunction with FÁS, as other agencies are having to do, for example, in the health services.

16.Given that unqualified teachers are now a part of life in many schools, guidelines and paid in-service development programmes after school or at weekends are urgently needed to support them in their work.

17.An allowance similar to the Gaeltacht or Island Allowances is needed to encourage teachers to apply for posts in disadvantaged areas.

18.Outstanding increments need to be paid in August to allow teachers taking early retirement to do so effective from 2nd September and not 2nd October.

19.The large numbers of teachers under 30 years leaving the profession suggests the availability of teachers crisis will worsen unless adequate remuneration for teachers is agreed.

20.A module on teaching in disadvantaged areas and addressing issues of social exclusion is required as a compulsory part of educating aspirant teachers in Colleges of Education.

21.The ‘Early Start’ and ‘Break the Cycle’ Programmes need to be extended to all schools described as suffering crisis disadvantage.

22.Permission ought to be given to Principals to deploy non-classroom teachers back in classrooms in order to serve pupils’ best interests when there is no qualified staff available.

23.The most hard pressed schools are recommending that a permanent panel of qualified substitute teachers be established to especially serve all severely disadvantaged areas, and that a special bonus would be offered to make participation on this panel attractive.

24.To make teaching in designated areas of disadvantage more attractive, allow either one year’s leave of absence after ten years service or allow one year deducted from retirement age for every ten years service.

25.All students at Colleges of Education should do teaching practice in school in a seriously disadvantaged area at least once in their 2nd or 3rd year of training.

26.A Centre for Deaf Studies needs to be established immediately to help the 70 deaf children born in Ireland each year and train Irish Sign Language tutors who currently come mainly from the U.K.

27.Tá dualgas ar leith ar na Coláistí Oideachais agus Roinn scolairí a oiliúint don Ghaelscolaíocht mar tá Gaelscoileanna thíos go mór le heaspa múinteoirí faoi láthair.

28.Untrained primary School teachers with over 20 years satisfactory experience should be entitled to sick pay, holiday pay, maternity leave, increments and pension entitlements once they have successfully completed a satisfactory evaluation of their work following appropriate in-service training or a ‘conversion course’ whether or not the teacher in question has a Primary Degree.

Michael P. Kitt, T.D.,


Joint Committee on Education and Science.

5th December, 2000.