Sharp rise in re­tired teach­ers sub­sti­tut­ing

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SARAH BURNS

The num­ber of re­tired teach­ers em­ployed to fill tem­po­rary or sub­sti­tute roles in­creased by 40 per cent in the last school year, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures pub­lished by the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Some 1,342 re­tired teach­ers re­turned to teach­ing over the 2017/18 aca­demic year, com­pared to 958 in 2016/17.

The ma­jor­ity of those (1,003) were re­tired pri­mary-school teach­ers.

The Ir­ish Na­tional Teach­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion (INTO) said pri­mary schools across the State were strug­gling to fill gaps aris­ing from ma­ter­nity leave and oc­ca­sional ab­sences.

“Pay inequal­ity, along­side a fail­ure by the Gov­ern­ment to rein­tro­duce sup­ply pan­els of teach­ers to reg­u­larise sub­sti­tu­tion work is hav­ing a pro­found im­pact on schools,” a spokesman said.

“Ev­i­dence sug­gests that prin­ci­pals were un­able to ac­cess a teacher to cover one quarter of their sub­sti­tutable ab­sences.

“Schools are in­creas­ingly hav­ing to call on re­tired staff mem­bers to shore up their short-term needs.”

Fianna Fáil’s ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Thomas Byrne TD said hir­ing re­tired teach­ers is “a short-term mea­sure” that schools are forced to turn to mostly when teach­ers are on train­ing or sick.

“It’s en­tirely re­lated to the short­age of teach­ers, which the Gov­ern­ment has done noth­ing about,” the Meath East TD said.

“There’s a mas­sive short­age of teach­ers, par­tic­u­larly sub­sti­tute teach­ers in pri­mary schools, but also a mas­sive short­age in a wide se­lec­tion of sub­jects at sec­ond level. Schools are then forced to turn to re­tired teach­ers.”

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said that, as far as pos­si­ble, schools give pri­or­ity to un­em­ployed reg­is­tered teach­ers who are fully qual­i­fied when fill­ing va­cant teach­ing posts.

Per­ma­nent po­si­tions

“In re­la­tion to pri­mary schools, due to the large num­ber of ad­di­tional per­ma­nent po­si­tions cre­ated in re­cent years, young teach­ers have greater op­por­tu­ni­ties to take on per­ma­nent roles in schools, with the knock-on im­pact that some schools are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing is­sues in hir­ing teach­ers to fill tem­po­rary or sub­sti­tute roles, which arises in schools for a num­ber of rea­sons,” a spokesman said.

The Depart­ment said in the past two years, 5,000 new teach­ers had been hired in pri­mary and post-pri­mary schools, “the fastest rate of re­cruit­ment ever in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor”.

It said a teacher sup­ply steer­ing group, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor and school man­age­ment bod­ies, had been es­tab­lished to de­velop a pro­gramme of ac­tions on teacher sup­ply and over­see its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Separately, the num­ber of teach­ers on ca­reer breaks rose from 2,090 in 2016/17 to 2,264 over the last aca­demic year.

The ca­reer break scheme gives teach­ers the op­tion to avail of a leave of ab­sence from school, with­out pay, for a min­i­mum of one year.

The max­i­mum du­ra­tion of any one ab­sence on ca­reer break is five years, while the over­all max­i­mum ab­sence in the course of a teach­ing ca­reer is 10 years.

The Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate pro­gramme places prob­lem solv­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing and cre­ativ­ity sec­ondary to rote learn­ing and re­call, a new five-year re­search study has found.

The study in­di­cated that skills such as re­mem­ber­ing and un­der­stand­ing were pri­ori­tised above eval­u­a­tion and cre­ativ­ity, which were found to be largely ab­sent from the ex­am­i­na­tion pa­pers in many sub­jects.

The re­search, car­ried out by Dr Denise Burns from the Cen­tre for Eval­u­a­tion, Qual­ity and In­spec­tion at DCU’s In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion, and com­pleted at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin, chal­lenges the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate as­sess­ment to foster cre­ativ­ity and in­tel­lec­tual stim­u­la­tion among stu­dents.

The study found that the cur­rent sys­tem favours wealth­ier stu­dents with ac­cess to grind-based schools that use a rote learn­ing ap­proach, per­pet­u­at­ing so­cio-eco­nomic di­vi­sions in aca­demic achieve­ment and ac­cess to third-level ed­u­ca­tion.

In in­ter­views with stu­dents, Dr Burns found they en­joyed the op­por­tu­ni­ties for cre­ativ­ity pre­sented by English, Mu­sic and Art.

‘Write an es­say’

“They en­joyed when they could be cre­ative for ex­am­ple in English Pa­per 1 when they are given in­struc­tion to write an es­say. They ex­pressed anx­i­ety when they had to learn off and re­tain a huge body of text, which is a re­quire­ment for bi­ol­ogy or ge­og­ra­phy.

“Some stu­dents had maybe 30 pre­pared es­says and they had formed an es­say pool and shared th­ese be­tween them. There’s noth­ing wrong with it but the prob­lem is it’s so dom­i­nant, that they are not get­ting enough op­por­tu­nity to de­velop other skills,” she said.Her study ques­tions whether the cur­rent as­sess­ment recog­nises the key devel­op­ment stage for those aged from 16-19.

It found that anal­y­sis and cre­ativ­ity were al­most com­pletely ab­sent ex­cept in Art, English and Mu­sic. Sub­jects such as Bi­ol­ogy, Agri­cul­tural Sci­ence and some of the Stem sub­jects leaned heav­ily to­wards mem­ory re­call skills.

Heavy fo­cus on “fac­tual” knowl­edge in Bi­ol­ogy (73 per cent) raised ques­tions about the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the sub­ject as a ba­sis for pur­su­ing third-level pro­grammes in life sci­ences which fo­cus on the sci­en­tific meth­ods, she found.

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