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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
PA Education Minister Norma Foley
teacher supply

Plans to scrap teacher career breaks criticised as it emerges Education Minister is on same break

The lack of availability of teachers was brought up in the Dáil this afternoon.

A REPRESENTATIVE FOR Education Minister Norma Foley has confirmed that she herself is on a career break from teaching despite the minister suggesting that breaks such as these be cancelled so as to improve teacher supply. 

The lack of availability of teachers nationwide, and especially in and around the nation’s cities, was raised today during Leaders’ Questions.

At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, it emerged that the option of suspending or amending career breaks is being considered.

However, the Department of Education said it will consult with the unions before taking any final decision. 

Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald brought up how the housing crisis was itself a major factor in the shortage of teachers. 

She said: “Teachers can’t afford the extortionate rents that are being charged. And indeed, so many are locked out of any real opportunity of ever purchasing their own home.

“I was shocked, gobsmacked in fact, to hear that the Minister for Education’s first response to this was a suggestion of cancelling career breaks for teachers, not least because the Minister herself is on a career break from teaching – clearly that is not the answer.”

A spokesperson for the Education Minister said: “Minister Foley is on a career break and is cognisant that career breaks are used for a variety of valid reasons such as family care or to avail of other professional opportunities.

It is important to note that there are no proposals on the table to eliminate career breaks but rather to evaluate current non statutory leave, and to consider whether temporary and modest amendments to these leave schemes could support teacher supply. No decision has been made or will be made without consultation with the partners in education.

Responding to McDonald, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was “incorrect” and “unfair” to state that the idea of cancelling leave was the first idea floated by the Minister for Education. 

He said there has been a range of initiatives taken in respect of teacher supply

“Limits on substitute work applying to teachers on career breaks have also been temporarily suspended,” he said

“The Teaching Council made regulations allowing for the registration of third and fourth year undergraduate student teachers under the new registration route. So far, over 2,100 students have applied for that registration,” the Taoiseach said.

Martin added that the Department of Public Expenditure has also agreed to “a waiver of pension for a bit” for retired teachers returning to teach for up to 50 days in each of the three calendar years to 2021 to 2023 inclusive.

In a statement last night, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) sait it noted “with dismay media reports this evening suggesting that the Minister for Education is considering the suspension of career breaks to tackle the teacher supply crisis”.

A spokesperson said: “We believe that such a measure would make the profession less attractive and ultimately worsen the teacher recruitment and teacher crisis.

“It is also completely unacceptable that such a measure would be put forward without any consultation.”

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