Sharp rise in retired teachers substituting
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.
“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.