Why are re­tired teach­ers go­ing back to school?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW -

Many of us have fond or fear­ful mem­o­ries of past teach­ers, but schools are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a col­lec­tive sense of deja vu, as long-re­tired teach­ers have be­gun reap­pear­ing in the class­room to teach a new gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents. But what’s be­hind this mass re­turn of re­tired teach­ers? You’d think the last thing they’d want at their age would be to be try­ing to cor­ral a room­ful of mil­len­ni­als into pay­ing at­ten­tion. Would they not pre­fer to be set­tled in front of a fire watch­ing Univer­sity Chal­lenge?

Blame the staffing cri­sis in Ir­ish schools. Many primary schools are hav­ing trou­ble fill­ing the gaps left by teach­ers tak­ing ca­reer breaks and ma­ter­nity leave, while se­condary schools are find­ing it nigh on im­pos­si­ble to find staff to teach key sub­jects. The rea­son? Young teach­ers are emi­grat­ing in droves, tak­ing up bet­ter-paid teaching po­si­tions in places such as the Mid­dle East, where Ir­ish teach­ers are in huge de­mand be­cause of their qual­i­fi­ca­tions and skills. So Ir­ish schools are hav­ing to look to the re­tired work­force to take up the slack.

Ac­cord­ing to the latest fig­ures, a record num­ber of re­tired teach­ers – about 1,000 – were re­cruited to pro­vide cover dur­ing the aca­demic year 2016/2017. Many of these teach­ers were needed for key sub­jects such as science and lan­guages, be­cause young grad­u­ates in these fields are pass­ing up teaching roles and tak­ing up ca­reers in other sec­tors, where job prospects are bet­ter and more lu­cra­tive.

So what’s the in­cen­tive for re­tired teach­ers to leave the com­fort of their pot­ting sheds and come back to school? Sur­pris­ingly, many re­tired teach­ers are happy to come in and work as sub­sti­tute teach­ers and sup­ple­ment their pen­sion with paid work.

One of the teacher unions, the Ir­ish Na­tional Teach­ers’ Organisation, how­ever, has rounded on Min­is­ter for Education Richard Bru­ton for us­ing re­tired teach­ers as a “band-aid” when the coun­try is haem­or­rhag­ing teach­ers. “The fail­ure by Gov­ern­ment to ad­dress pay in­equal­ity is in­creas­ing the ex­o­dus of Ir­ish teach­ers,” said the union’s Sheila Nu­nan. “For­eign gov­ern­ments recog­nise the worth of Ir­ish teach­ers. The Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment must do like­wise.”

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