A teachers' union has criticised a new Department of Education report which predicts an oversupply of 38,000 teachers by 2036 as “utter nonsense”.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said that the report failed to accurately predict demand because it was “based entirely on demographics” and ignored “profound changes proposed to the education landscape”.
These proposed changes include lowering class sizes, providing for more children who are learning to speak English or have learning difficulties, and ring-fencing days when principals could be exempt from teaching duties to focus on management.
The INTO also questioned why unions had not been allowed to contribute to the report.
A spokesperson said:
"We can provide context on recruitment but we can't do that if we're not in the room.”
The report, called ‘Developing a Teacher Demand and Supply Model for Ireland 2020 – 2036’ predicts a huge teacher surplus. It estimates an excess of 22,783 primary teachers and 15,249 at post-primary level by 2036.
But the report is based on current pupil-teacher ratios, which the INTO says are already too high and are compromising Irish education, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
Class sizes in Ireland are currently above the EU and OECD averages, with 25 pupils on average in an Irish primary classroom, compared to the EU average of 20 or the OECD average of 21, the INTO said.
The union also said that the report failed to grasp the current supply crisis, which resulted in 75% of Irish primary schools having 10 or more days when they could not secure a qualified replacement, with 118,112 absences not covered in 2017 (17% of total absences).
INTO General Secretary John Boyle said: “Excluding the voice of teachers from this forum has ensured the group has failed to appreciate the wider issues of class sizes, supply panels, school leaders and diversity in education, all of which need to be addressed urgently."
The INTO said that the Government’s ambition to deliver the best education system in Europe by 2026 will fail if they don’t lower class sizes, roll out a much-needed national supply panel, deliver one administrative day per week for teaching principals and bolster teacher supports for a diverse range of pupil needs, from language difficulties to special needs.