atest press release from Deputy Jennifer Whitmore, issued on Tuesday, October 19th 2021…
After speaking to numerous primary and secondary school Principals across county Wicklow, Deputy Whitmore says, “it is alarming to hear directly from school Principals and staff of the chronic lack of substitute teachers currently available to them if a teacher absent.
“During the current pandemic, teachers have to stay home if they or their child are sick or are waiting for covid test results. Normally, there would be a number of substitute teachers to fill in, but the number of available substitutes has been dwindling over the past number of years for many reasons. There are less and less teachers due to the higher cost of living in areas like Wicklow, many going overseas and fewer training to be a teacher now that it takes two years for a person to qualify. Covid has made the current situation even more untenable as teachers are often absent last minute when they suspect an infection making it harder to find a substitute nearby.
“Principals in Wicklow schools, both primary and secondary, are telling me that where there is an absence they are forced to use existing Special Education Teachers which means children go without this support in the meantime. Principals themselves are also stepping in to take over for a class. There is an INTO online resource but most substitute teachers are booked up by the time a school contacts them. Another concern is that not all those who substitute for a teacher’s absence are in fact qualified, but a school can be forced to take on the extra help where it can.
“All of this is unsustainable in terms of education provision for children and workload for existing staff, who are already working hard during the current pandemic to maintain a safe school environment.
“What is shocking is that we are hearing very little from the Minister for Education on this issue, and there is no clarity as to what additional resources are in place from Budget 2022. There is no long term plan either to increase teacher cover in Wicklow and across the country, a huge shortcoming of this current Government.
“I have followed up with the Minister on this and will find out what the Department is doing, if anything to stem this crisis, encourage more people to take up teacher training and to assist schools who currently do not have access to substitute panels.”
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