Difficulties getting teachers to apply for principal jobs may be eased by a new course destined to prepare them for the challenges.
Primary and second-level schools have had greater difficulties recruiting principals in recent years, largely down to beliefs that the rising workload is not sufficiently rewarded by the pay.
Education Minister Richard Bruton will today announce a new 18-month course for teachers with ambitions to fill school leadership positions. Around 200 places will be available each year on the part-time postgraduate qualification in school leadership, partly-funded by his department.
A consortium, led by University of Limerick, supported by University College Dublin and NUI Galway, will deliver the course in six regions. It will focus on the roles of leading the learning in schools and the management duties of principals and deputy principals in primary and post-primary schools.
In addition, 400 school leaders will be able to avail of 4,600 hours of coaching from next month. Principals will have access to the confidential one-to-one service to discuss challenges in the job, with the aim of improving their ability to work in a challenging situation.
Mr Bruton said success in education is built on the quality of leadership, ingenuity in teaching and community support for learning.
“The quality of learning is critical to how children develop their competences. With changing technology and changing expectations, school leaders are required to operate in a much more complex environment,” he said.
The coaching will be delivered by the Centre for School Leadership, a partnership between the Department of Education, Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) and National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD). It has also had input into course content and will work with the consortium delivering it. Further support will be provided by teacher education centres, Cork Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology.
NAPD’s Clive Byrne said there have been an unprecedented 680 changes at principal or deputy principal level in second-level schools in the last five years, but there are still difficulties hiring principals for many schools.
“Sometimes there’s a generous number of applications for deputy principal jobs, but often there are not enough people coming forward to fill the principal’s position,” he said.
“It’s to do with a school’s size or location, but many will apply to be a deputy but not a principal because the financial incentive is not enough with the increased workload,” Mr Byrne said.
An almost complete ban on promotions below deputy principal level has seen more duties landed on principals’ desks, leading to many retiring early due to stress.
Under measures announced by Mr Bruton, large second-level schools should get extra deputy principal posts from September and more middle-management posts will be available at primary and post-primary levels. However, at least half of second-level schools may not be eligible for these posts as Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (Asti) members are not signed up to a revised promotion process.
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