Student teachers should be allowed to accept offers of paid substitute work as part of efforts to combat current shortages, according to a Fianna Fáil TD.
Public health advice advising teachers to stay at home if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms has led to a shortage of substitutes.
Education Minister Norma Foley has said measures have been put in place to ensure schools always have access to substitute teachers.
However, a number of principals have said they're still struggling to find enough cover.
They say there has been a shortage of sub teachers for many years, but the challenges have become even more significant during the pandemic.
In some colleges, students in their final year would take part in a bloc of teaching practice that could be as long as 14 weeks.
Fianna Fáil TD and former teacher Cathal Crowe thinks this should be shortened to allow students to take on paid subbing work.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, he said: “I spent 16 years teaching… right up until the last general election.
“My final teaching practice placement, which was compulsory for all teachers, was two weeks’ duration. That’s now gone up to 14 weeks’ duration.
“Maybe if we just went back to the system we had for many, many years that worked so well - reduce down the actual teaching practice placement in college, pare it back a little bit from 14 weeks, and allow some of these teachers to break out of the academic cycle and into the classroom.
“I think putting them on the frontline would enhance their skills hugely.”
'Ungraduated, not unqualified'
The Clare TD said letting these trainee teachers learn on their feet and go home with money in their pocket "is a hell of a lot better than being on a teaching practice placement".
He said Minister Foley has removed some restrictions around subbing - including for teachers on career breaks or job-sharing - but more improvements are needed.
Deputy Crowe argued that trainee teachers are “ungraduated” rather than “unqualified”, and final year students will have had more than three years of in-class and in-college experience.
He said the sub crisis has been worsened by COVID, as teachers that have a “cough or sniffle simply cannot be in school”.
As a trained teacher himself, Deputy Crowe has recently taken on some unpaid subbing work in schools in his constituency.
He said: “I subbed last week, and I intend doing a little bit more before Christmas. I didn’t neglect any of my political duties - I put all my meetings until the evening.
“I made this clear to all principals: I said I’m not taking payment, and I will only work if you can’t get anybody else. The last thing I want to do is displace a 20 or 21-year-old teacher trying to get work for the day.”