School leaders fear a new pay-weighting system may be needed in expensive parts of the country to retain workers struggling with rising living costs.
A similar mechanism was used in London, where some key workers were paid an allowance as an incentive to remain in the British capital.
Soaring rent, fuel and energy costs this year have fueled concerns that some schools in urban areas here will struggle to fill positions for the coming semester as teachers opt to take jobs in cheaper parts of the country.
Principals typically expect to have new appointments made before the end of August, but many were still interviewing candidates last week.
Principals and schools in Dublin are hardest hit, but it’s a problem in urban centers nationwide.
The director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, Paul Crone, said he had spoken to about 50 secondary school principals at meetings over the past two weeks, but only one told him they believe they have filled all their vacancies .
“Some of those positions may have since been filled, but principals are still hiring this week,” Mr Crone said.
“Some of those who were appointed in June and signed a contract are now refusing that contract because they have a new offer that may be closer to where they live or may have more hours.
“Teacher [who are] well-established schools are also applying for positions in other parts of the country and I know one headmaster who called his staff and said: ‘If anyone has a room available, we have a number of new teachers moving to Dublin and we need them Accomodation’.
“This is how they deal with the problem.”
In the long term, a salary incentive for those who live or work in expensive parts of the country must be considered.
“It’s probably something that needs to be on the table. It exists in London and needs to be discussed,” he said.
A government source said such a proposal is unlikely to be considered.
They said that the weights offered in London still only align teachers’ salaries there with salaries here, where they start at around €38,000.
Teachers in the UK who start their careers outside of London earn around €7,500 less a year.
Other sources fear the weight would contribute to wage inequality. Defining the system would also be a challenge, as many people working in Dublin commute daily from neighboring counties at considerable expense.
Mr Crone suggested a number of temporary short-term solutions, including the ability to allow people on job-sharing initiatives to work overtime, teachers to work a few hours during breaks, encourage retired teachers to take classes and free up more student teachers to relieve pressure.
Last week, TUI warned the issue could affect students’ choice of subjects, as recruitment problems mean some schools may not be able to offer full timetables in September.
Mr Crone and another union, ASTI, said it was contributing to logistical headaches in schools across the country as principals adjust timetables or, in some cases, completely redesign them in recent weeks to cope with staff losses.
School leaders have two choices when juggling lesson plans, Mr Crone added.
“One is to leave the timetable as it is in hopes of getting a replacement teacher, or two, you redo the timetable and try to accommodate existing classes as much as possible, and the classes for first and fifth Year will be reduced because you’ve got a deficit in that subject.”
ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie said he recently spoke to a principal who has hired seven new teachers but is concerned they may not all show up on September 1st.
Mr Christie said technical subjects, European languages, home economics and Irish were the most difficult to recruit.
“The cost of living is a problem for everyone in society.
“There is some concern that employees will leave at relatively short notice or not show up in the coming year because they can find work elsewhere. There is an acute shortage of staff in certain subjects.”
The problem is not just limited to secondary schools, according to INTO Secretary-General John Boyle, who said head teachers in primary schools were also affected.
While 129 primary school teacher posts were advertised last Friday, Mr Boyle expects that number to increase in the coming days as some schools have had to delay their recruitment processes due to uncertainty.
Mr Boyle claimed he knew of a case where five teachers lived together in a house in Dublin last year but the property was no longer available.
They struggled to find alternative accommodation, so three of the teachers took jobs elsewhere: one in a rural town, another in Dubai and the third in Australia. The others have stayed in Dublin, but one has yet to find accommodation despite being offered a permanent position.
“It’s not just a Dublin issue. Elsewhere, rents have risen more sharply than Dublin over the past 12 months and commuting costs are also a big factor.
“Our members are being impacted like any other worker in any other sector across the country trying to get to and from work.
“This is a societal issue and the amount of money people are taking home at the end of each week has fallen sharply. There is still an incentive to work, but there is an incentive to work in Dubai.”
A spokesman for the Department of Education said more than 2,900 newly qualified teachers have been registered by the Teaching Council for the upcoming school year.
Boards for substitute teachers in the primary school have also been strengthened and more efforts are being made to increase the supply of teachers, he added.
“Secondary schools are encouraged to take advantage of the ‘Teacher Sharing Program between Approved Secondary Schools’, which allows a teacher to be shared between two schools, helping schools to fill vacancies in high priority subjects “, he said.
“The Irish Primary Principals’ Network is also developing a new central portal for recruiting teachers for long-term positions in both primary and secondary schools.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/acute-staff-shortages-schools-urge-weighted-salary-scheme-for-more-expensive-parts-of-country-41942162.html “Acute staff shortage” – schools demand “weighted” salary regulations for more expensive parts of the country