Measures to increase substitute teacher availability are ‘plasters on an open wound’ says Cork principal

Measures to increase substitute teacher availability are ‘plasters on an open wound’ says Cork principal

Principal of Owenabue Educate Together school in Carrigaline Trina Golden said that while the measures are welcome “they won't alleviate the subbing crisis on their own”. Picture Dan Linehan

NEW measures to increase substitute availability are welcome but will merely serve as ‘plasters on an open wound’ until such a time as underlying issues are addressed, a Cork principal has warned.

Earlier this week the Minister for Education announced additional measures to help increase the availability of substitute teachers.

Speaking to The Echo, Principal of Owenabue Educate Together school in Carrigaline Trina Golden said that while the measures are welcome “they won't alleviate the subbing crisis on their own”.

“I started a WhatsApp group for student teacher substitutes in Cork last week. 247 people joined within a week, filling the group,” she said.

However, none of those were available to sub yesterday.

We need to address the underlying cause of the sub crisis, inadequate mitigation measures and high level of spread of Covid within schools.

“Until we do, measures to increase substitute availability are plasters on an open wound,” she continued.

New measures

Amongst the new measures introduced, retired teachers returning to classrooms until the end of the current school term will not have their pension abated. Additionally, the release of PME and B.Ed. year three and year four students to support schools up to the end of term has been agreed.

There are now almost 480 posts sanctioned to provide substitute cover to primary schools as part of the Primary Schools Substitute Teacher Supply Panels.

In the context of the current substitute supply issues particularly in certain areas, a further 200 posts are being made available, bringing the total to 680, to existing/new areas where significant challenges in sourcing substitution has continued.

The Teacher Education support services funded by the Department have also been asked to release teachers who are on secondment to make themselves available to provide substitute cover in schools, with the Department stating that arrangements will be made for available teachers from these services to register with an existing Primary Supply Panel or on Subseeker.ie.

Longer term

Cork city councillor Eolan Ryng, who teaches at Scoil Oilibhéir in Ballyvolane, expressed a similar view to Ms Golden.

"The new measures are to be welcomed and will hopefully alleviate the huge pressure schools have been experiencing over the last number of weeks.

“I would be hopeful that in the longer term, substitution remains on the agenda. Before the pandemic, it was an area of difficulty, especially in winter months,” he said.

Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central, Pádraig O’Sullivan also welcomed the measures aimed at improving the current situation with substitute teachers in schools, but said more is needed to support schools in this regard.

“We need to look at allowing second level teachers to work beyond their permitted 22 hours.

“As I have stated previously, we need to also acknowledge that there could be suitable people who might have qualified abroad and that we could allow them to substitute too.” The Department of Education has said the additional temporary measures are in place until the February mid-term break, at which point they will be reviewed.

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