Fine Gael Seanad education spokesperson Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has slammed schools which employ retired teachers to provide substitute cover when hundreds of newly qualified teachers are jobless.
Teaching jobs are in short supply, forcing many new graduates onto the dole queues and to emigrate in search of work, she said.
But by ensuring the probationery period for newly qualified teachers remains at five years, that retired teachers are not offered substitute work instead of young unemployed teachers and that unqualified personnel are not allowed teach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan could help safeguard the futures of teachers who are entering the workforce, she insisted.
“The Minister for Education could alleviate the situation for many by ensuring that the probation period for newly qualified teachers is not cut from five years to three as is currently happening under new guidelines.
“She is hopelessly out of touch with the scale of unemployment among young teachers. I met with 40 young teachers in Galway city earlier this week who told me of the new cut to the probationary teaching period and the increased difficulty this will heap upon them in attempting to secure teaching jobs to complete their probation. Quite simply, there are no posts in which they can complete their probation and their teaching diplomas, which are an essential requirement for their future teaching careers.
“One young graduate primary teacher told me that out of the 400 graduates from St Patrick’s Teacher Training College this year only 30 are currently employed. I heard firsthand the desperation of young unemployed teachers in need of work. The good news is that it is within the Tánaiste’s power to take the necessary steps to rectify the mess over which she presently presides.”
She says Fine Gael has released figures outlining how a further 400 retired teachers are being employed by schools as substitute teachers while thousands of newly qualified teachers cannot find a job.
“Some principal teachers are hiring retired teachers to cover for teachers on maternity leave. This is completely wrong and demands the immediate intervention of the Minister. These positions are key to enabling newly qualified teachers to complete their probation.
“In a further retrograde move, the Minister is seeking to amend education legislation to allow unqualified teachers to teach when so many young teachers are on the dole. This is an outrage. She must quickly get a grip and show our young graduates the respect they deserve.”