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Survey Highlights Acute Teacher Shortages At Primary And Special Education Schools In Wicklow

A joint survey published today by a number of teaching bodies, including the INTO, highlights the unprecedented shortages.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), in conjunction with the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) and the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) today published the results of an extensive survey highlighting an unprecedented level of vacant teaching posts in primary and special schools.

The survey found that in total, there is a current shortfall of 809 permanent, fixed-term and long-term substitute teachers in the schools who responded to the survey.

To make matters even worse, these schools have also indicated that they anticipate having an additional 1,202 long-term vacancies within the next three months.  

This survey also identifies the disproportionate adverse impact on certain schools. 28% of all schools in the survey reported long term vacancies but that percentage rose to 50% in DEIS Band one schools and Gaelscoileanna and 43% of special schools.  

The survey showed a particular geographical impact on Dublin and other urban areas. Dublin was the county with the most vacant posts – 513 out of 809 (63%) of all vacant posts were in the greater Dublin area (109 permanent, 213 fixed-term and 191 long-term substitute). Within Dublin, the areas worst affected are Dublin 24 (58 vacancies, including 21 permanent), Dublin 15 (35, including 9 permanent) and Dublin 12 (33 including 10 permanent). There were 70 vacancies in Kildare, 63 in Meath, 30 in Louth and 32 in Wicklow. 

Two thirds of primary schools responded that they had used a Special Education Teacher (SET) to cover for an absence and 61 schools responded that they had used a SET for more than 20 days by the end of the first month of the school year. This indicates the impact that the teacher shortage is having on special education provision.  

The survey of all primary and special schools was conducted in the first week of October with a total of 1,094 schools responding (a 35% response rate). The demographics of the schools that responded were broadly reflective of the primary education sector.  

The findings prove beyond any doubt that planning for teacher supply in the primary and special education sectors is failing and it is pupils with the greatest needs who are most adversely impacted.  

Last Christmas the Department of Education stated that in the primary sector 99.5% of contracts extending to a year or more had been filled, but they admitted that an average of 1,200 short-term daily substitute vacancies existed during the first academic term.

School principals have indicated clearly that the lack of short-term substitutes is already much more severe this year and that they have never before witnessed such massive numbers of longer-term vacancies.  

 Key findings of the survey include: 

In relation to long term vacancies: 

  • Only 72% of the schools who responded had been able to fill all their vacancies, with 306 schools still having vacant posts.  
  • 89 schools had vacant permanent posts, with 1 school having 8 vacancies and 1 school having 9. 
  • 149 schools had unfilled long-term fixed-term posts with 13 schools having 4 such posts unfilled, and 6 schools having 5.  
  • 212 schools had long-term substitute vacancies with 10 schools having 4 vacant substitute posts and 18 having 3.  
  • 34% of the special schools in the survey had vacant permanent posts.  
  • Of the 109 DEIS band 1 schools that responded, there were 45 vacant permanent posts, 81 fixed-term posts and 55 unfilled substitute posts.  
  • In the 53 Gaelscoileanna that responded, there were 18 permanent and 18 fixed-term posts vacant as well as 34 vacant long-term substitute posts. 

Expected vacancies: 

  • 12% of schools in the survey expected to have permanent vacancies in the next three months, a total of 157 posts.  
  • 57% of schools expected to have long-term substitute posts available – a total of 1,045 posts. This is in addition to the required cover for short-term absences. 

Impact on SEN provision: 

  • 721 schools (66%) responded that they had used a SET to cover for an absence. For most of these schools (442) SETs were used for between 1 and 5 days, but 61 schools responded that they had used a SET to cover classes for more than 20 days.   
  • 8 schools indicated that they had used a SET as cover for more than 50 days, indicating that SET were being used as a long-term solution to fill vacancies.  
  • Using the median figures from the survey, it can be estimated that 5,214 days substitution have been provided by SETs already this year. 


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