INTO leader sounds warning on teacher shortages

Achievement levels in schools will fall in the coming years if the substitution crisis is not dealt with immediately according to John Boyle, President of the INTO. He told delegates to the primary teachers’ union conference in Killarney that children get one chance at primary education.

“They are entitled to a fully qualified teacher every day,” he said. “A minister that cannot provide that has no claim to building the best education system in Europe.”

“Panels of supply teachers covering teacher absences and teaching principals’ administration days are a matter of urgency,” said Mr Boyle.

He accused the current minister of having a very negative attitude to supply panels of substitute teachers. Mr. Boyle told delegates, “Such a scheme worked successfully until it was abandoned by government in 2010. That negative attitude will lose us our top ranking internationally.”

He said Irish teachers, north and south, had brought Irish pupils to the top of world rankings. “In my view it’s no coincidence that the pupils who sat these tests have benefited from fully qualified teachers throughout their years in school,” he said.

“Sadly, the same cannot be said of the students who undertook PISA tests eight years ago when Irish pupils dropped dramatically in the world rankings” Mr. Boyle said. “They did not have access to fully qualified teachers every day. Education cuts take a long time to heal and
consequences are felt years afterwards.”

He also told delegates that after 2018 total enrolment in primary schools will fall giving government a once off opportunity to reduce class sizes.

He said many countries had taken advantage of falling school rolls by creating smaller classes and providing higher per student funding.

As well as addressing the substitution crisis government must reduce class sizes in primary schools to the European average of 20:1 and reduce class sizes in DEIS Band 1 schools on a pro rata basis.