Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore has called on the Minister for Education to take urgent action to address the rising number of vacant primary school teaching posts around the country.
Her comments come in response to the publication of results of a survey of 1,094 primary and special needs schools which was conducted by the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation (INTO), in conjunction with the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) and the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) during the first week of October.
The survey revealed that there are 809 vacant teaching posts across primary classes nationally, 32 of which are in primary schools in county Wicklow. 721 schools, two thirds of the schools that responded to the survey indicated that they had used a Special Education Teacher (SET) to cover for an absence, demonstrating that it is the pupils with the greatest needs who are being impacted most by these unfilled positions.
“Primary School Principals have been warning us about the negative impact the teacher shortage has been having on schools and the extreme pressure that they have been under to fill these positions. The INTO survey results demonstrate just how bad this crisis is,” commented Deputy Whitmore.
“We are already seeing the impact that these vacant teaching posts are having on children and school communities in my constituency of Wicklow. Understaffing has been a huge cause of stress and concern for the staff and students at Newcourt School in Bray over the last number of years. It has posed immediate and urgent challenges for the school community, which is particularly concerning due to the high level of special educational needs of the children there,” explained Ms Whitmore, who is the Social Democrats spokesperson for Children.
“A Principal from another school in Wicklow told me of their concerns about filling two maternity leave positions this school year. The school only received one applicant for one of these positions and the Principal fears that they may be forced to return to the classroom as a teaching-Principal in order to fill the second maternity leave position,” added Deputy Whitmore.
“With the INTO revealing that a further 1,202 vacancies are expected over the next 3 months this crisis is only going to get worse. The Minister for Education must take urgent action to address this teacher shortage and support our school communities who are struggling to fill these gaps,” concluded Ms Whitmore.