‘Nothing off the table’ to plug teacher shortages – Foley

‘Nothing Off The Table’ To Plug Teacher Shortages – Foley
Norma Foley comments, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Cate McCurry, PA

Nothing is off the table when it comes to measures to tackle the current shortage of teachers, according to the Minister for Education.

Norma Foley said she and her department were happy to “pursue” suggestions put forward by the teachers’ unions to address the recruitment and retention crisis.


Teachers’ unions are holding their annual conferences this week, with the issue of teacher shortages top of the agenda.

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) is holding its conference in Co Wexford on Tuesday, while the Teachers’ Union of Ireland is meeting in Killarney.

Ms Foley said there will be occasions where there are absences among the 75,000 teachers in the system.


“We will be proactive in this space. As I said, the various measures we’ve introduced and we will look at further and more measures,” she told RTÉ.

“But this is not unique to the education sector. This is an issue for a country that is near full employment that we’re going to have from time to time in various areas.

“I don’t take away the stress that it creates on school leaders but we are being supportive as much of as far as possible. We work in a partnership environment, so suggestions that are being made to us we’re happy to pursue.”

Asked whether her department will consider introducing an allowance for teachers, particularly for those in urban areas which is experiencing the biggest shortages, Ms Foley said it would be considered.


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Teachers’ unions are holding their annual conferences this week, with the issue of teacher shortages top of the agenda (Ian West/PA)

“Equally as I say, if it’s something that’s to be looked at… I will take nothing off the table,” she said.

“I think in the interest of fairness, if it had to be looked at right across the public sector, I think that’s only right.


“I think there would have to be a broad agreement amongst all the unions in relation to it also.”

The teachers’ unions have called for full recognition of teaching experience gained overseas in non-EU countries, including the Middle East and Australia.

However, Ms Foley said she does not want to make it “overly attractive” to Irish teachers to work abroad.

“There’s a fine line we walk here in terms of the push and pull factors,” she said.

“I’m conscious that from a primary school perspective, teachers who are working in non-EU countries, their services are recognised.

“Equally, we have to be cognizant of making it overly attractive, for those going abroad and ensuring that there is a fairness to the 75,000 who are actually currently working here at home as well.”

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said there needs to be a “complete change of thinking” within the education department.

Mr Christie accused Ms Foley of having a “minimalist approach” in her measures.

“She has introduced a considerable number of small measures that haven’t made a dent in the problem,” he added.

“What needs to happen with this minister and department of education is complete change in their thinking in relation to it.

“The efforts to entice people back from abroad from places like Canada and Australia has been feeble and pitiable.

“Inviting people back next September to part-time jobs is not going to cut it.”

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