School principals have voiced concern that the Education Minister is “so badly informed” about the extent of the substitute teacher crisis.
On The Hard Shoulder yesterday, Minister Norma Foley said that if schools were still struggling to source substitutes, they had not flagged the issue with her department.
She said several measures had been put in place to ensure schools always have access to subs – and warned schools they should never use special education teachers to cover absences.
School principals have been contacting The Hard Shoulder for weeks highlighting the issue and, on the show this evening, two of them told Kieran Cuddihy what it is like on the ground at the moment.
Sinead Harte, Principal of the Portlaoise Educate Together National School in said finding substitutes is a constant struggle.
“We are a large school with 30 teachers and so far this week, we have had nine occasions when we needed a sub teacher,” she said.
“Out of those nine occasions, we have only been able to get a sub teacher on three occasions. So that is two-thirds of our vacancies are not being filled by sub teachers – and it is not for want of trying.
“Principals throughout the country are spending hours - and I am not exaggerating - hours in the afternoon, the evening the morning and weekends trying to reach out and locate subs, but they are just not on the ground.
“The sub crisis is nothing new, so I am very concerned to hear that our minister is this far removed from what is happening on the ground.”
She said the Irish Primary Teachers Network (IPTN) last week carried out a survey and found that one-fifth of schools were forced to used special education teachers as substitutes on more than ten occasions already this year.
Also on the show, Bryan Collins Principal of Scoil Naomh Feichín in Termonfeckin, County Louth said it was “very disconcerting” to hear Minister Foley’s interview yesterday.
“School principals here in the northeast are bitterly disappointed by Minister Foley’s inability to accept the fact that all pupils in our care are suffering because of this chronic substitute teacher crisis,” he said.
“The minister said yesterday she wasn’t aware of the difficulties and quite frankly I find that difficult to believe.
“This didn’t happen today or yesterday. This has been prevalent for several years. There has been a shortage of sub teachers for many years but obviously, over the last 18 months it has become much more pronounced.”
Substitute teacher crisis
He said a recent survey of 37 schools in east Meath and Louth found they had been unable to source a substitute for a total of 296 school days already this year – an average of eight days per school.
“Minister foley has access to all those figures through the online claim system,” he said.
“Her department is fully aware of the number of absences and putting the number of absences against the number of claims, it is obvious how many substitutes are employed and how many absences there are.
“She doesn’t need to be told that with all due respect to the minister. It is very disconcerting to think the minister is so badly informed and it certainly doesn’t give me much confidence.”
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