The Minister for Education has insisted there are enough teachers being trained to meet demand in Irish schools.
Richard Bruton was speaking as it emerged that the number of people applying to be teachers has dropped by 62% in the past five years.
There were just 1,068 applications for second-level training courses last year, compared to 2,824 in 2011.
The Irish Times reports that this is leading to major shortages in key subjects like Irish and maths – while managers of the country’s primary schools are warning that the country could be facing into a crisis shortage of teachers.
The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) says 90% of its 2,800 schools are having problems finding teachers.
Minister Bruton has admitted there is a problem getting substitute teachers to fill short term positions – and said an upturn in the economy can be linked the shortfall:
He insisted however that there are still steady numbers graduating:
“There is a lot of competition out there with a recovering economy and obviously there are a lot of different routes that people can go,” he said. “But we are seeing steady numbers of graduates coming out all the time - as I say 3,000 graduates coming out each year.”
“That should be enough to meet our needs, but we have been recruiting rapidly in recent times.”
In November, a CPSMA survey found that primary schools are unable to find adequate cover for one-in-three teacher absences.
The study warned that some vacancies are being filled by unqualified people - while others are not being filled at all.
Speaking on Newstalk's The Hard Shoulder, he said initiatives are being taken to ensure all subjects are adequately covered- adding that his department is looking at a number of options to tackle the shortfall:
“We are looking at enhancing the period that people on career breaks can work – they are now confined to 90 days
“We are pointing out to schools and encouraging schools to recognise that people who are in their final year of teacher training can take up these posts and a lot of it is very good for their own development."
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin spokesperson on education Kathleen Funchion said young teachers are moving abroad to take up secure positions instead of taking up casual, part-time work available in Ireland.
“Why would graduates remain here with an unequal pay system, difficulty securing a permanent position and a high cost of living, especially in our cities, when they can avail of secure positions and better pay and conditions abroad?" she asked.
“The response from the Department of Education that there is no shortage or crisis is frankly unbelievable.
“This is much more than a “pinch point” for schools who have revealed vacancies in posts for which they have never received an application, despite advertising the positions several times and it is not good enough that the minister and his department refuse to acknowledge it.”
Meanwhile, CPSMA general secretary Seamus Mulcrony has called on the Government to reach out to all registered and qualified teachers and urge them to return to the Irish education system.