Schools are set to limit career breaks for teachers to tackle major staff shortages around the country.
The Irish Independent reports that there are currently over 1,700 primary teachers and 557 secondary teachers on career breaks - while school authorities warn staff shortages are now reaching crisis levels.
It comes as the number of people applying to be teachers dropped by 62% in the past five years.
Secondary schools have reported difficulties recruiting teachers in key subjects including Irish, maths and physics.
Meanwhile, primary school managers meanwhile have warned that 90% of its 2,800 schools are having problems finding substitute teachers.
The Minister for Education has insisted there are enough teachers being trained to meet demand in Irish schools.
Career break scheme
Under the current scheme, teachers are entitled to take a career break as soon as they have completed 12 months of continuous service at a school.
Teachers can take up to ten years out of their career - provided they are not absent for any longer than five years at a time.
Their jobs are secure while they are away, and they can take further breaks as soon as they have worked at a school for an amount of time equal to the length of their previous break.
While teachers take career breaks for any number of reasons, large numbers have been travelling abroad for work.
Schools in the Middle East, Asia and Europe hold Irish teachers in extremely high regard – and there are often far superior terms and conditions on offer.
The positions are extremely highly paid and come with free medical insurance, flights - and 2 month bonus upon completion of a 2 year contract.
Pay and conditions
Teaching unions have rejected the Government's overarching public service pay agreement with the current the two tier system that sees recently qualified teachers paid less than their more experienced colleagues a major sticking point:
On the Pat Kenny Show this morning, INTO President John Boyle says a lot of teachers are forced to work abroad as a result of the pay inequality:
"A lot of young teachers - let's say a couple - lost in the region of €50,000; a deposit for a house," he said.
"In that situation, it is much easier when you go abroad, get tax-free salaries and return after a few years.
"But we have also had a continuation of the baby boom. It was not anticipated in 2011 that there would be as many children born.
"We thought that would peak around 2014 but it is actually only peaking now."
Over the coming weeks, schools will be deciding on career break applications for next September.
A number of school management bodies have warned that the scheme is having a significant impact at a time when staff shortages are causing real difficulties in Irish schools - with calls for it to be tapered back in an effort to tackle the crisis.