Teacher shortages lead to 100% increase in demand for grinds

Students are already requesting exam papers at the start of the school year in an effort to get ahead when traditionally they have waited until January to start focused exam revision
Teacher shortages lead to 100% increase in demand for grinds

Louise Walsh

The owner of a grind school believes a shortage of post-primary teachers has led to a 100 part cent increase in demand for places by parents of students sitting state exams next year.

Students are already requesting exam papers at the start of the school year in an effort to get ahead when traditionally they have waited until January to start focused exam revision.

Irene Gahan who has run the Drogheda Grinds Academy in Co Louth for the last eight years says this is the first year that she has seen such demand at the very beginning of the new school year.

"I have a great team of 15 highly qualified teachers, and they are all in demand for every subject across the board," she said.

"Normally, there would be a more focused demand on Chemistry, Physics and Maths but this year, it's across every subject; Maths, English, Irish, Chemistry, languages, everything.

"On a normal year, we would have about 125 students now at the start of term, which would increase as the time gets closer to the exams. However, we had 200 students enrolled even just before the start of September. I've never seen that before.

"This is the first year where a lot of our grinds have already been booked out.

We are getting a lot of calls from panicked parents and students.

"We are getting a lot of calls from panicked parents and students, eager to get as many grinds as they can because of the huge and much publicised teacher shortages in post-primary schools."

Ms Gahan said it is best to organise grinds as early as possible to avoid panic leading up to exams.

"We work with a lot of post-primary schools and my heart goes out to the principals who are struggling to fill vacancies. The reality is that teachers aren't going to move across the country for short-term contracts and schools are struggling to find qualified teachers.

"Parents are also asking for multiple grinds for the first time but we only allow a leaving certificate student to take three grinds subjects maximum a week which equates to four hours extra tuition. It's not fair on a teenager who is already overloaded with course work.

"This year's sixth year pupils are even more anxious as their Junior Certificate exams were cancelled due to Covid-19 so they've never sat an official exam like this.

"There are huge pressures on teenagers across the board particularly in sixth year and our grinds are completely exam focussed.

" Many of our students are looking for the best grade they can achieve and sometimes that’s a H4 or H5. We are here to help them achieve that grade.

"In an ideal world there would be no need for a grinds school but students take grinds for many reasons. Some because there is no teacher or a sub, or because they may have a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia and need additional help with smaller class sizes and some want to take extra subjects outside school. It’s not just about getting a H1 or the points for the CAO.

"What is hard about the Irish system is a student could get denied becoming an engineer or architect because they don’t have an aptitude for say languages but they excel at tech graphics or engineering.

"No student should be pressured into excelling in a subject that they haven't a natural aptitude for but unfortunately that is the system we have to work with.

"Many of the students in our grinds school last year went to college in Europe where the points system isn't considered. It's a path most parents and students don't consider because they don't know anything about it but there are a huge range of options.

"Once they are there the requirements to pass each year are harder but it provides another avenue for students to get to the next step without getting stressed about the Irish points race."

Price

She added: "Another thing is the price. Many opponents of grinds argue that this is an unfair advantage but students in disadvantaged schools quite often have the option of extra in school tuition which is not necessarily available in other schools.

"A student with dyslexia or a specific learning disability is even more disadvantaged across all schools and this provides them with an opportunity to learn in a different educational environment with smaller class sizes and more focused exam based help.

"The grinds school was originally set up to provide additional tuition to students that needed extra help to achieve the best they can and sometimes that’s a C grade and that’s an achievement.

"We would ask parents and students not to panic, start as early in the year as possible, not last minute when it’s going to be more difficult to get any additional help and don’t overload yourself with grinds if you don’t need it.

"The last thing students need is extra pressure. They should talk to their teachers in school and ask for advice. Teachers in schools are the first port of call for students and parents. Grinds are just an additional option of help."

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