Over 500 retired teachers employed last year

A shortage of teachers with the right subjects or difficulties for unemployed people getting to rural locations are among the reasons given by schools for continuing to give substitution work to hundreds of retired teachers.

Although the numbers are falling, more than 500 retired teachers were employed in the last school year.

The Department of Education has written to 147 schools about compliance with rules introduced four years ago to prioritise unemployed qualified teachers for all vacancies. The May 2011 circular restricted the circumstances in which schools can hire unqualified or retired teachers.

Further restrictions put in place last year mean anybody who is not registered with the Teaching Council, which requires full qualifications, cannot be paid from public funds.

The department told the Irish Examiner that reasons given by schools for recruiting retired teachers included:

  • A lack of appropriately-qualified and registered teachers, in certain curriculum areas;
  • Lack of availability at short notice of appropriately registered teachers;
  • Difficulty getting unemployed registered teachers for “this school as we are a special school for children with autism”;
  • Unemployed teachers prioritising longer periods of employment;
  • Unattractive to young unemployed teachers due to the isolated location of the school and lack of public transport.

The department figures show 62% of retired teachers given work in 2013/2014 school year had the equivalent of at least one week’s work in schools. That was an increase from half of those in 2011/12, the last year for which comparable figures were available.

However, the total number of retired teachers given work fell by more than 60% in those two years — from almost 1,400 to 537. The decreases were slightly higher at primary level — down 64% in two years from 847 retired teachers to 302. At second level, the number of retired teachers who were employed fell by 57% in two years, from 544 to 235.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation called for the reinstatement and extension of a pilot scheme of regional panels of teachers employed full-time to be on call for substitution cover.

The 2011 rules for filling teaching vacancies aim to ensure that schools prioritise unemployed qualified teachers. A principal must keep a record and report to the board of management any instances when retired teachers or unregistered personnel are employed, but such records should also be available for inspection by the department.

Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue said schools should be required to explain why a retired teacher has been employed when submitting details for teacher payments to the department, rather than only on request.

“They would need to clearly outline why they had to employ a retired teacher and what effort was made to give the work to an unemployed qualified teacher.”

Mr McConalogue said a supply panel system could eliminate the excuse of schools in peripheral areas only being able to hire retired teachers. He said other school work could be done by panel teachers on days they were not called on as substitutes. “It might cost a little bit more but children would also benefit from having the same teacher if there are regular calls on substitutes.”

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