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Richard Bruton targets career breaks and expresses concern that teachers are working abroad

The minister says that career breaks should only be granted if schools can replace the teacher.

Education Minister Richard Bruton in Citywest today.
Education Minister Richard Bruton in Citywest today.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

EDUCATION MINISTER RICHARD Bruton has voiced concern that there is a “growing number” of teachers who have been working full-time jobs while on career break.

Bruton has also said that his department would be advising school boards that career break should not be granted unless the school is in a position to fill the temporary vacancy that would be created.

The minister was speaking to the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) this morning and addressed concerns about a difficulty in recruiting substitute teachers.

In order to help the problem, he said he would be lifting restrictions that stop teachers who are on a career break from doing substitute teaching work.

In addition, he also outlined that career breaks should only be granted for the allowable reasons.

“It is worth saying that the purpose of the career break scheme, as set out on my department’s website, is to facilitate personal development, voluntary service overseas, childcare or self-employment,” the minister said.

These are important and worthwhile. However, its purpose is not to facilitate someone taking another full-time job, while retaining the right to return to their former teaching job at any point for up to five years.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Bruton said his department has no statistics on the number of teachers who are on career breaks and are working elsewhere, but that “anecdotally” it appears to be a growing issue.

“There’s been a rising number of career breaks and they’ve been increasing steadily in recent years and I think it is the schools who are telling me there are difficulties in filling the positions that are vacated. So I think schools have acknowledged the problem and I’m just making clear that these are the terms on which career breaks should be granted,” he said.

Bruton also said there is a concern about a growing number of teachers who may be working abroad while on a career break and said there is perhaps ”a laxity” in how decisions are now made compared to how they have in the past.

Speaking on the same programme, INTO general secretary Sheila Noonan said that she was “disappointed” that the minster chose to be “divisive” in raising the issue of career breaks.

“I’m rather disappointed in the approach that the minister has taken, to some extent it is somewhat divisive and I think it distracts from what needs to be the solution, which is more structural,” she said.

Boards of management currently, even under current circulars from the department, do very carefully put in place policy around career breaks around the number of people who can go on career break.

Noonan also defended teachers who may have taken a career break and used that time to work abroad, even if this was not one of the prescribed reasons.

“We had his party leader and Taoiseach saying if you want to save for your deposit then out of the country you go and go abroad if need be to make the money. And it’s no secret that there’s a significant number of Irish teachers out in the Middle East for that very particular purpose.”

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Rónán Duffy

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