Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

The sight of Micheál Martin and Alan Kelly accusing each other of lying was unedifying, to say the least. Nevertheless, the subject of their alleged conversation, whether teachers would be exempt from having to restrict their movements if they were household close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, may trigger the final stage of an entirely different crisis.

The requirement for teachers to restrict their movements may push schools to their limits. Classes may have to be sent home. There was already a teacher supply and substitution problem long before Covid-19. The pandemic has exacerbated the problem to an unmanageable degree.

Anywhere from a third to half of larger post-primary schools could not safely accommodate 30 pupils in classrooms when schools reopened. These schools are rotating pupils in and out of classrooms, which means that another teacher has to be found to supervise the five or six pupils who do not fit in the main classroom every day.

Things are going to get worse in the second half of the academic year when second-level teachers will need to be released as examiners of practical subjects and language orals
This has put an enormous strain on substitution rotas and teacher allocations. Then, quite rightly, schools began to try and safely reintroduce important elements like sports matches and extra-curricular activities. Every time a match is played, other teachers must cover for the staff directly involved with the team.

Professional development courses have also resumed, meaning that substitute teachers have to be found while teachers are undergoing necessary training and reskilling. Things are going to get worse in the second half of the academic year when second-level teachers will need to be released as examiners of practical subjects and language orals.

All this adds up to a nightmare for schools that had already found it impossible to fill teaching posts in certain subjects. Brian Mooney recently fielded a query from a parent who has a son sitting the Leaving Certificate. The parent was shocked to discover that three unqualified people are teaching home economics, chemistry and biology. The parent asked plaintively whether this was allowed.

Is it allowed? Schools desperately wish there were an alternative. Long before Covid-19, it was very difficult to find qualified teachers in these subjects, not to mention modern foreign languages and Irish. This situation has been allowed to fester for years.

There have been piecemeal attempts to deal with the lack of qualified teachers, including a funding increase for St Angela’s College to allow them to train more home economics teachers.

This proved inadequate, to say the least. Graduates from St Angela’s can easily find jobs in the food industry at higher salaries than in teaching. Unsurprisingly, newly qualified teachers take these jobs in preference to teaching. While there is universal envy of teachers’ holidays, there is no envy of the energy expenditure needed in order to teach up to 240 different teenagers a day.

A qualified home economics teacher who wants to remain in education can now work anywhere in the country she or he wants. Most of them do not want to work in Dublin or other urban areas with unaffordable rents and no prospect of ever buying a house.

While the factors influencing shortages of qualified teachers in other subjects vary, the housing crisis affects every subject in urban schools. Deis schools are finding it even harder than middle-class schools.

Schools have no teachers to fill new posts and no substitutes for teachers who, for whatever reason, be it maternity leave or Covid-19, are currently on leave.

It is a direct result of the ongoing neglect of education and cannot be solved by throwing money at it.

There simply are not enough qualified teachers out there. Despite that, teachers who have perfectly good qualifications from outside Ireland, or even Northern Ireland, are made to jump through bureaucratic hoops by the Teaching Council before they are allowed to even register.

Students are fed up with health and safety regulations and in some cases, are barely complying with minimum requirements
Schools are rarely mentioned any more in official statements regarding the pandemic. In the run-up to October 22nd, when everything was supposed to reopen and a process of returning to normality begin, principals strained in vain to hear a single mention of schools. It took an unpleasant row between senior politicians before there was any mention of the implications for schools of the new regulations.

Invisibility and neglect are the rewards for managing so well during the pandemic. Teachers and management just grimly get on with it and somehow make it work, maintaining some semblance of normality for stressed students.

But it is hard to describe how low morale is in schools. This academic year is worse than last year. A year-and-a-half of teaching in freezing classrooms at post-primary level, with both teachers and students wearing communication-stunting masks, has taken its toll.

Students are fed up with health and safety regulations and in some cases, are barely complying with minimum requirements. Yet schools are supposed to maintain standards and achieve the same results in wildly abnormal conditions.

Perhaps the only thing that will make the government pay attention to schools is when they can no longer limp on, and begin sending students home, perhaps transition year students today, then second years the next. Then, far too late, the neglect of years may finally begin to be addressed.

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2. You Are The Reason I Love To Teach Juneteenth Svg

3. You Can’t Scare Me I Am A Great Teacher Boo Ghost Halloween Svg

4. You Can’t Scare Me I’m A Stem Teacher Svg

5. You Can’t Scare Me I’m A Teacher Svg

6. You Can’t Scare Me I’m A Teacher Svg

7. You Don’t Scare Me I’m A Special Education Teacher I’ve Done It Seen It And Written A Goal For It Svg

8. You’re On Mute Vintage Svg

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