Priority Questions - School Staffing

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 738 No. 1

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  4.  Deputy Brendan Smith  Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith   asked the Minister for Education and Skills  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   if he has satisfied himself that only qualified registered teachers will be employed in approved teaching posts in schools from September 2011; and the response to date from schools following a recent Department circular on teacher recruitment registration and qualifications. [19411/11]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am committed to ensuring that schools employ registered teachers who have the qualifications needed for teaching in recognised schools. This is important in terms of quality provision to pupils and in ensuring qualified and registered teachers can secure employment.

My Department recently issued a circular requiring schools to prioritise teachers over unregistered persons and appropriately qualified teachers over teachers qualified for different sectors. Unemployed teachers are given priority over retired teachers.

Only where every avenue for sourcing a registered teacher has been exhausted may a school employ an unregistered person until a registered teacher may be located, for a maximum period of five days.

Any decision to employ an unregistered person is a local decision made by the school authorities and not my Department. The new circular, to which I referred, is aimed at ensuring that boards of management and principals only resort to having an unregistered person in very limited circumstances.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  I thank the Minister for his reply. I had the opportunity to state in this House previously that it is not good enough that there are young teachers struggling to get work and yet schools around the country are hiring retired persons to fill substitute positions.

I welcome the fact the Minister issued, relatively recently, as did his predecessor, Ms Mary Coughlan, a circular to schools directing them to hire qualified teachers who are registered, obviously, with the appropriate qualifications.

The numbers may be relatively small on a macro level, but it is wrong if we send out a message that newly qualified persons will be denied a teaching opportunity and a person with a damn good pension is back in the classroom. I ask the Minister if he will take a zero tolerance approach to this issue. It is not the numbers who are in the classroom back from retirement but the very message that is wrong. Of course, for every retired person taking up a teaching position generally, it is denying a newly qualified person that opportunity to start his or her career.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Deputy opposite, Deputy Crowe and I were at the INTO conference in Sligo just after Easter at which time this issue was hotly debated. It really must be brought to the attention of everybody involved that on short notice it is the principal who is the person who hires the substitute teacher if somebody reports sick or cannot attend. The INTO has given a clear indication to all of its members not to work with unqualified teachers. Also, it must be recognised that the principals are members of the INTO. They are the ones who make the decision to hire a substitute teacher and the circular that we issued was directed to them.

Preference is clearly to be given to young unemployed teachers as against retired teachers. Preference is to be given to qualified teachers as against unqualified teachers. A maximum of [49]five days is allowed where an unqualified person can be in the classroom if the alternative is that those children would be sent home.

We will continue along this road because I share the concerns the Deputy outlined.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  I welcome the Minister’s comments. He indicated some time ago that he would ask his officials to examine the pension consequences for retirees returning to teach. If he has it available, he might let us know the outcome of that examination by his officials. He quite rightly outlined that teachers must be registered and qualified and only in exceptional circumstances should a retired person be taken back.

The circulars by the former Minister, Ms Coughlan, and by himself, also asked schools to keep a list of registered teachers. Does the Minister’s inspectorate know whether all schools are abiding by this direction?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We will be moving to have in place by autumn a system whereby the school will make available a panel of substitute teachers that it has in mind should a necessity to hire somebody arise and that panel will be open to scrutiny by members of the school community, the board of management and the parents, and perhaps by a wider public if that is necessary. At the same time, teachers who are seeking work, even substitute work, will be shown how to get onto that panel. We are still working on the detail and the operational modalities of that system. Ideally, what I want for the forthcoming academic year is a panel system where parents and others who are interested will know that if a vacancy arises at short notice, the substitute would be drawn from that group of people. That is the ideal situation as far as we are concerned and we are moving towards it.

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