Many schools are seeking help from the Department of Education to assist with a staffing “crisis” which has left some vulnerable pupils without specialized support.
The scale of the impact of shortages and their effect on pupils is highlighted in communications between schools and the Department of Education released to The Irish Times. Dozens of schools have told of how since September they have been struggling to attract applicants for vacant teaching posts and have had to use unqualified staff to fill gaps.
One principal told the department that while their school should have 26 teachers, it only had 20 due to a staffing crisis which was set to get worse with more staff due to go on maternity leave before Christmas.
“I have been a primary school principal since 1998 and I have never seen such a dearth of applicants. Many of our staff resigned this year, with a heavy heart due to the cost of living in Dublin and the lack of accommodation,” the principal said.
“I will have no one left in SET [special education teaching] by the end of this month and two classes will be without teachers by Christmas. This is a crisis like no other.”
Another warned that the impact of these teaching vacancies was serious, especially for students with additional needs who require extra support. “Needless to say, the impact that the current situation will have on our most vulnerable students is heartbreaking — not only for me, but for all staff and members of our school community. That lack of services available now to those children is terrifying.”
One principal told the department their school was unable to fill a vacant special education teaching post despite five rounds of advertising.
“There is clearly a huge lack of teachers when I am receiving no applications from qualified primary teachers for a permanent job in Dublin. Having consulted our board of management, and our patron, I now turn to the department, please, to see if you can assist,” they said.
In a similar vein, another principal said: “It’s the silly season for recruitment in Dublin … not a teacher to be found. Disaster.”
Another principal told the department that her school “desperately” needed assistance as staff were exhausted from trying to fill gaps.
“I REALLY need help!!!,” the principal wrote. “I am two permanent teachers short and I have had no applications. I have two Hibernias [College] students who can sub but they cannot take temporary contracts as they have other employment. Can I please have subbing days to cover these people until I appoint someone? Staff are exhausted and children aren’t getting their entitlements.”
Another appealed to be allowed to “bank” special education teaching hours being lost for vulnerable children due to the need to redeploy staff.
One school leader warned that it has not had any staff in its learning support department for its most vulnerable students for a number of months, while another highlighted the impact on children.
“It is soul destroying that there are clerical issues that are standing in the way of some form of respite for these children … I am writing to you as a school principal who is begging on behalf of the most vulnerable children in her school that you look at this issue immediately and rectify it.”
Minister for Education Norma Foley acknowledged that there are “difficulties and challenges” in sourcing teachers, particularly in urban centers, due to the housing crisis. However, she said there were similar challenges facing other sectors such as healthcare, hospitality and retail.
While she said she has taken several initiatives to boost teacher supply, her department is open to exploring other potential options with education partners.