At its most recent meeting, the Teaching Council discussed the matter of teacher supply in depth. This was in clear recognition of the serious challenges which schools are facing in securing substitute teachers at both primary and post-primary, and in filling permanent vacancies in certain subjects at post-primary.
The achievement of a fully qualified teaching profession in January 2014, with the commencement of Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act, was a significant milestone. This achievement reflected the status of teaching as one of the most important professions in our society. We are recognised internationally for the calibre of person who enters the teaching profession in Ireland every year. We believe that it is of vital importance that we maintain this standing so as to ensure that all of our pupils and students, particularly those in greatest need, receive the quality teaching and learning experiences to which they are entitled. Ireland has held education and the teaching profession in the highest regard for the past 200 years and we will continue to need great teachers well into the future.
All stakeholders, including teacher unions, school management, parents and Higher Education Institutions are united in their serious concern at the problems which have emerged in relation to teacher supply and demand. We in the Council fully share these concerns. It is acknowledged that the challenges are complex and that no one action will solve them all.
In December 2015, the Council endorsed the recommendations of “Striking the Balance”, the final report on teacher supply, as its advice on this matter. We produced this report in collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills and the Higher Education Authority. The report covered a number of issues on teacher supply across the short and longer term. This included how a model of primary teacher supply could work. It also highlighted the importance of better co-ordination of data on teacher supply and demand through the establishment of a Standing Group.
We welcome the Minister’s recent announcements on teacher supply, including the establishment of a Teacher Supply Steering Group. We look forward to collaborating with the Department and other stakeholders, including HEIs, on practical solutions to teacher supply issues in to the long term.
In April 2014, the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills stated:
“There will be a need for a more targeted approach by all providers of initial teacher education to supply teachers with the required skill sets to meet the identified needs of the system.” We note that the Minister in his remarks on 26 January highlighted the need to look at subject quotas for post-primary teaching. While this will clearly be a complex and challenging task, we cannot ignore the fact that many schools are unable to recruit teachers in a number of key subject areas.
It is therefore timely that we are organising the next meeting of the Consultative Forum on Teacher Supply this Wednesday, 7 February. This meeting was originally scheduled for May and has been brought forward in recognition of the increasing seriousness of the issue. The agenda identifies key issues including pathways to full qualification as a teacher, recruitment, retention, pay equality, substitution, supply panels, the issues of casualisation and the hours culture, availability of reliable and up-to-date data in relation to teacher supply and demand, incentives to retain the quality and quantity of teachers in our school workforce, and a comprehensive communications campaign to support the status of the teaching profession and also ensure that people make more informed choices when entering the profession.
We in the Council believe that we are at a watershed moment in the development of the teaching profession. In this context, we are very much looking forward to welcoming the Department and stakeholders to the Forum on 7 February so that we can all support and inform the next stages of work on this crucial matter of teacher supply in Irish schools.
Given the serious challenges which the education system is facing in relation to teacher supply, it is vitally important that we all work together to develop practical solutions within clearly defined timelines so that we can pull back from the crisis which threatens. In this light, we are keen to continue our collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills and all stakeholders in working towards our shared goal of ensuring a sufficient supply of high calibre teachers to meet the identified needs of the education system, especially those of our learners, both now and into the future.
The Teaching Council was established to maintain and enhance professional standards in teaching and learning. We currently have in excess of 98,000 teachers on our register. The Council has representation from all the teaching stakeholders including teachers and principals, school management bodies, teacher unions, parents' councils and Higher Education Institutions who offer programmes of Initial Teacher Education (teaching qualifications). We have a statutory role in relation to teacher supply which includes the provision of advice to the Minister for Education and Skills, as well as our wider legal mandate to promote and regulate the teaching profession.