Plans to suspend career breaks to address teacher shortage 'ludicrous', says Cork principal

It emerged recently that career breaks for teachers could be suspended under plans being considered by the Government in response to a shortage of qualified staff
Plans to suspend career breaks to address teacher shortage 'ludicrous', says Cork principal

Many schools are struggling to find substitute cover and secondary schools are facing acute challenges recruiting qualified teachers in key subjects.

A Cork secondary school principal has criticised Government plans to potentially suspend career breaks for teachers as ‘ludicrous’ and said inspectors should be made go back teaching to solve the teacher shortage in the short-term.

It emerged recently that career breaks for teachers could be suspended under plans being considered by the Government in response to a shortage of qualified staff.

Many schools are struggling to find substitute cover and secondary schools are facing acute challenges recruiting qualified teachers in key subjects.

Coláiste Éamann Rís principal Aaron Wolfe said the proposed plans were ludicrous. 

“It was a ludicrous suggestion from Minister Foley who is on career break herself. They should get the inspectors to come back teaching to solve this teacher shortage and to get over this emergency situation. We have all these inspectors who work for the Department of Education. They should be sent back to the classroom. They are wonderful teachers, and we could learn from them,” he said.

The Cork city secondary school principal said there is a ‘desperate’ shortage of teachers at present. “There is a desperate shortage and especially in certain subjects. I can get an English teacher, but not a maths teacher. I spoke to someone recently for a possible job and I ended up being interviewed. There are other ways rather than looking at cancelling leave. People rely on those career breaks for different reasons. They can be taken to enhance your study of education.

“We have to look at why people don’t want to become teachers,” said Mr Wolfe who wants a reduction in the two-year postgraduate programme which replaced the one-year Hdip course. 

“When I became a teacher, I did one year of a Hdip. I could barely afford to live in Dublin for a year as you are not paid. Now you must do two years of teacher training, without being paid. This is against a backdrop of rising rents and the cost-of-living crisis. Why was this ever increased?” The secondary school principal said teacher ‘bashing’ is also putting people off becoming teachers. 

“People don’t want to become teachers. Teacher bashing is a national pastime in Ireland. Teachers as a career is not respected. The media has a huge part to play in that. Everyone gives out about teachers and their three months off during the summer.

“We have the highest contact level of time in all the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. You are more than a teacher now. Parents know their rights and teachers are in a very vulnerable position. You would be very scared to say anything to a student now,” he added.

Social Democrats TD for Cork South West Holly Cairns said suspending career breaks will not ‘solve’ the recruitment crisis. “These proposals will not solve the recruitment crisis. At a time when we need to incentivise more people to take up teaching careers, this measure will have the opposite effect. Restricting career breaks will not put a single extra teacher into our classrooms.”

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