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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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recruitment crisis

Dublin primary schools finding it incredibly difficult to recruit teachers for September

‘The Department has known that we are struggling to find teachers for months, and the Minister has said nothing’.

PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN Dublin that are struggling to recruit teachers ahead of September are at risk of seeing their special education resources “decimated”, one principal has said. 

Currently, there are 641 empty teaching posts being recruited for across the country, as schools are scrambling to find staff. 

Overall, over 1,155 posts are still to be filled ahead of the academic year in Ireland, from pre-school to higher education level. 

Conor Reilly is the principal of a  school based in Lucan that has 610 children enrolled for this year. He is currently desperately trying to recruit teachers for 7 out of 41 full time posts that remain unfilled. 

Reilly fears that going into the school year with a staff deficit will result in there being less support for children with additional needs. 

“I have never been in this position before. I’ve been doing this job for almost six years and we would normally have our posts mostly filled by June or July. We usually get hundreds of applications for each position, but for five recently advertised mainstream jobs we had seven applications. 

“Only two of those accepted an invitation to interview, and only one accepted a job offer,” Reilly said. 

The Lucan principal believes that schools are struggling to recruit in Dublin because teachers can’t find anywhere to live on a starting salary, and because the Department of Education isn’t offering graduates enough incentives to stay in Ireland rather than teaching abroad.

“Teachers have always travelled, and every year we see them go to Dubai and Australia, but this year there seems to be a much higher percentage of new teachers emigrating. 

“Traditionally, teachers would wait until they got a permanent contract here and then take a career break, which we could manage, but now they are just leaving schools and heading over, because they know they will find another job when they get back. 

“We had three fabulous young teachers last year who decided to move away. I was chatting to them in June and asked why wouldn’t they wait to get a permanent contract first, and they said it’s costing them too much money to stay,” Reilly said. 

He added that accommodation security is a big drawback for graduates when they consider moving to Dublin, and that he knew of one young teacher who had to sleep on a friend’s couch for six months. 

“You can’t do that and then go in and teach a classroom full of kids. It’s also hard to spend the day in such a busy room, and then go back to a rental where you potentially have no space to mark homework, or to do class prep,” he said. 

Reilly said that he is in a WhatsApp group of Dublin school principals, and that every school is in the same situation, “they just cannot fill the positions”. 

The result of this come September, Reilly said, will be less extracurricular activities for children, and less SET support. 

“Positions in most schools are separated between mainstream classes, and then SET, which is the Special Education Team. The mainstream classes positions have to be filled first, and we will be able to do that, but that will have a knock on effect on SET. 

“In my school we typically have 14 positions designated for special education. If we can’t recruit another seven teachers, there will be just seven SET teachers this year. Inevitably, the children who are going to suffer are the ones who need additional support, of which there are around 100 in my school. We won’t have the staff there to support them in every case,” Reilly said. 

He added that this usually comes in the form of support in the classroom, or children being withdrawn from bigger classes into a smaller group. 

“We do have children with ADHD and autism who need that option to be available to them,” Reilly said. 

He further claimed that the Department of Education has been aware of the serious recruitment difficulties facing schools.

“They send out press releases all the time announcing additional SET positions. That’s just paper, it isn’t the reality if we aren’t able to recruit people into those roles. 

“What is needed is real incentives for teachers to stay in Ireland, and to use career breaks for travel. Graduates need support in moving to Dublin, so they can find somewhere to live. If those steps aren’t taken, it’s not just going to be SET that is impacted, it will be art club, homework club, football teams, and more.”

The Journal has contacted the Department of Education for comment. 

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