By Kate Relihan
The current teacher shortage crisis is an indictment of our education system and has reached ‘emergency levels’, according to the INTO. The ASTI also warns of schools ‘under enormous strain’ with hundreds of teaching positions vacant ahead of the first term, with 600 primary and post-primary posts advertised as of 5 September on educationposts.ie.
A recent TUI survey found that 40% do not believe they will be in the teaching profession in ten years’ time. Cuts to pay, pensions and promotional posts, lack of career progression, teacher training lengthened and made more expensive, two-tier pay scale and prevalence of temporary conditions have all helped to create this crisis. Add to this the spiralling cost of living and housing crisis whereby living in Dublin and many cities nationwide can swallow up to 80% of a teacher’s monthly salary.
Grassroots campaign launched
On the foot of the complete failure of the government to act to end this crisis, parents, teachers, union activists and former Socialist Party TD and teacher Ruth Coppinger established Education Coalition Dublin West (ECDW). It aims to organise teachers, students and parents in a common battle to make sure the necessary investment is made to stop the crisis regarding teacher retention.
ECDW sent a questionnaire to all government parties, and local political representatives, to ascertain how they intend to address the teacher shortage that is crippling our constituency.
We published our findings in a four-page newsletter via a successful launch broadcast by Virgin Media and Newstalk. Our initiative has been very well received by our local community, with a great take-up for leaflet distribution throughout the constituency, including by many students.
This is a crucial issue for parents, which impacts every student gravely and none more than those with additional needs. Their teachers are being redeployed as absences cannot be filled. Why should the most vulnerable be thrown overboard time and time again? In light of a looming local and General Election and a housing emergency that is set to escalate, the ECDW says no more to being disadvantaged while the government sits on a surplus of billions. Other areas should follow this example from Dublin West, as this is a major issue nationwide.