Ending career breaks for teachers only worsen the sector’s retention crisis, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland has claimed.
Currently, Irish teachers are allowed to take up to ten years’ worth of unpaid career breaks – but the Government is considering abolishing the perk in the hope it will boost overall teacher numbers.
The proposal would be vigorously opposed by unions who believe it would worsen the retention crisis.
On Newstalk Breakfast TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said career breaks are very important for teachers.
“Teachers take career breaks for many reasons,” Mr Gillespie told Newstalk Breakfast.
“To experience work abroad, some return to do additional study - there’s lots of reasons.
“Also, at the moment, the workload and the pressure in schools are very high, so if they work abroad they’re being promised an awful lot when they go abroad.
“They’re promised smaller classes, maybe more organised workloads, not a system under as much pressure as our system is under.”
Mr Gillespie said a ban would simply mean teachers resigning instead of returning to the school at a later date.
“If we do that to a teacher - because of the recruitment and retention crisis; because they know they’re going to get a job anywhere in the world - they’ll resign,” he said.
“For the first time ever last year, more teachers resigned their post than retired.
“That hasn’t happened before in Ireland.
“So, we know they resigned [and] our own union knows from our own records that they resigned if they were refused a career break.
“Then the school has lost them forever.
"We know the retention and recruitment crisis in teaching is going to get worse because of all the demographic issues.
“We’ve gone through this before. So, at least if they’re on a career break, they may come back.”
When taking a career break, teachers must take at least one year – and can extend that each year for up to five years.
A maximum of ten can be taken across a teacher’s career.
Education Minister Norma Foley is herself on a career break from the school she taught at prior to her election as a TD in 2020.
Main image: A teacher in front of a blackboard. Image: Alamy.com