INTO calls for emergency teacher supply taskforce

Against the backdrop of a recruitment and retention crisis in primary and special education, the time for ineffective talking shops must end.

Today’s meeting of the Consultative Forum on Teacher Supply has failed to outline any meaningful mitigation to a staffing crisis that has led to lost learning opportunities for children.

The abject failure of the Teacher Supply Action Plan, launched by the Department of Education nearly five years ago with the intention of ensuring that we had an adequate supply of appropriately qualified teachers in Ireland, clearly demonstrates that the inexplicable omission of education unions from the steering and implementation groups was a grave error.

Teacher shortages have now reached emergency levels and it is time for an emergency taskforce to be established to identify tangible solutions to the problem we now face, inclusive of the voices of workers.

The provision of a fully qualified teaching workforce is essential for the ongoing delivery of a high-quality education system. The INTO has long advocated that every child should have access to a qualified teacher each school day.

As a union, we fought for the establishment of a national supply panel network to address the challenges experienced for several years in accessing substitute teachers. The expansion came about following the conclusion of a successful pilot scheme which clearly demonstrated that this model benefits school communities, who deeply value the scheme, which is working successfully in most areas. The scheme needs to be augmented with extra staff and expanded to all areas of the country.

Several crises are currently affecting the ability of schools, particularly in larger urban areas to recruit staff onto these panels and to fill other permanent and long-term vacancies, including cover for teachers on maternity leave and positions in special education, DEIS schools and Gaelscoileanna.

The cost-of-living crisis, an inability to access housing and significant rent increases have exacerbated the problems associated with teacher recruitment.

Alongside these societal challenges, the Department of Education must take responsibility for failing to increase the annual intake to initial teacher education courses, thereby contributing to the staffing challenges facing our schools.

Tackling these root causes of the current staffing challenges is the only sure way to protect our primary education system into the future.

Following our attendance at today’s uninspiring and wholly underwhelming meeting of the Consultative Forum on Teacher supply, which ignored the crisis impacting primary schools, the INTO will now review our ongoing participation in this forum unless it addresses the real issues facing schools.

We will also continue to engage with the Department of Education and other bodies to explore practical and workable solutions to alleviate the staffing crisis in our primary and special schools. The Central Executive Committee will give detailed consideration to this critical issue next week.