Teacher unions to be consulted on solving recruitment problems

Teacher unions will be consulted by a steering group examining ways to deal with the problems schools face in recruiting teachers, the Department of Education has promised.

It was responding to criticism this week from the Irish National Teachers’ Union (INTO) that its requests to meet the steering group established by Education Minister Richard Bruton have been ignored.

The department told the Irish Examiner that the group, chaired by department secretary general Seán Ó Foghlú, has met three times.

Its first meeting took place in late March and members include three other department officials, and representatives of the Higher Education Authority, Teaching Council, universities, and independent expert Anthony Finn from the University of Glasgow.

On Monday, the INTO demanded an urgent meeting with the minister over its concerns at what general secretary Sheila Nunan described as their outrageous exclusion from the steering group.

A department spokesman said the steering group is developing a detailed communication strategy as part of the overall plan to address teacher supply.

 

“A key element of the strategy will be consultation with stakeholders, including the teacher unions,” he said.

 

The steering group was set up by Mr Bruton in response to growing problems faced by schools, with second-level principals having particular problems recruiting teachers of certain subjects like Irish and other languages, as well as science subjects.

The Department of Education also told the Irish Examiner that colleges have indicated that interest is up on last year after 100 extra places were provided by universities on postgraduate courses leading to qualifications to teach those subjects.

However, Union of Students in Ireland president Síona Cahill said yesterday that access to grants for those on postgraduate courses was a barrier since most financial supports were removed during a series of education cutbacks in 2012.

“So many people were effectively locked out of that system after doing a primary degree in arts,” Ms Cahill told Today with Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland’s new president, Seamus Lahart, said that teacher shortages across a growing number of subjects and falls in applications for courses to become teachers are among the results of lower pay rates for those who have joined the profession since the start of 2011.

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