Unfilled apprenticeship positions in almost half of secondary schools, survey finds – The Irish Times

Almost half of secondary schools have unfilled apprenticeship positions, a new survey shows.

The findings are based on an online survey by Red C of more than 2,000 members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) last month, including class teachers, head teachers and deputy head teachers.

Almost a fifth of schools have been forced to drop one or more subjects from the curriculum as a result.

The survey revealed that three-quarters of school heads stated that they had not received any applications for one or more advertised apprenticeship positions in the current school year.

Additionally, 81 percent of principals and alternates surveyed said they hired at least one unskilled teacher this school year.

The poll results come ahead of next week’s annual teachers’ union conferences, which will be dominated by issues such as recruitment, retention and pay.

Other strategies used by schools to address teacher supply problems included delegating additional work to teachers in the school and reallocating special education teachers to mainstream classes.

Recruitment problems were compounded by the unavailability of substitute teachers, the survey found.

As of September 2022, almost nine out of ten schools have had situations where substitute teachers were not available to fill teacher absences due to sick leave and other short-term absences.

Teachers who took part in the survey identified a number of factors contributing to teacher shortages, including a feeling that teaching is no longer seen as an attractive profession; better pay in other jobs; a legacy of unequal pay for teachers introduced in 2010; and the housing crisis leading to the emigration of teachers.

ASTI President Miriam Duggan said the union was “deeply concerned” about the impact of the teacher shortage on students, their education and future lives.

“Today’s survey shows that schools are being forced to hire unqualified teachers, divert resources from students with special needs and eliminate subjects from the curriculum. It’s shocking,” she said.

“Teacher workloads are also negatively impacted by teacher shortages. Teachers are being asked to teach subjects for which they are not qualified, to supervise additional classes and to change their schedule at short notice. This inevitably creates extra work and stress.”

The survey also revealed that teachers’ job satisfaction has fallen compared to previous years.

A total of 44 percent of teachers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their work, compared to 50 percent in 2022 and 63 percent in 2021.

More than three-quarters said they have considered leaving the job, with more than a quarter often considering doing so.

The teachers said they believe better pay, permanent positions for new entrants and a lighter workload are needed to make teaching a more attractive career choice and help stem teacher shortages.

Among principals, most principals and deputy principals said they are aware that local schools face difficulties in hiring principals.

They cited the heavy workload, the impact on work-life balance, and the complexity of the role as barriers to hiring.

Principals also described that they experienced high levels of stress from being constantly in “emergency mode” due to the vacancies and lack of substitute teachers.

Education Secretary Norma Foley, who is due to speak at the teachers’ conference next week, said her department is running a comprehensive program to support the delivery of teachers.

These measures include allowing second-level teachers to offer additional substitute hours in the subject for which they are qualified; greater flexibility to allow student teachers to offer more substitute substitutions; lifting fines for retired teachers who provide coverage; and the opportunity for job-share teachers to work in a backup role during the time they are on leave.

She said longer-term measures also include an increase in the number of places in continuing education programs for teachers in priority subjects such as math, Spanish and physics, while CAO’s post-primary education choices have increased by 11 percent this year.

https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2023/04/04/unfilled-teaching-vacancies-affect-about-half-of-second-level-schools-survey-finds/ Unfilled apprenticeship positions in almost half of secondary schools, survey finds – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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