Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on the Minister for Education to engage with school leaders and urgently address the substitution crisis in our schools.
His comments follow anger from the school community at ‘out of touch’ comments by the Minister denying the existence of significant staffing issues within schools.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“The Minister’s comments yesterday, denying the existence of a substitution crisis, were astonishing. They could not be further removed from the reality of what I am hearing on the ground. It is hard to believe she made such comments to be honest.
“If the Minister had been listening to school leaders, she would know that, across this state, principals are working up to 11pm, even midnight each night, desperately trying to find substitute cover for classes the next day.
“The tone the Minister has taken, seems to suggest that it is a decision that school leaders take lightly, having to delegate their Special Education Teacher to cover absence.
“This is completely disrespectful to principals across this country, who have been under incredible pressure and stress since schools reopened trying to make sure their school stayed open, and that all classes had a teacher.
“School leaders have been put in an impossible position, because the Minister has refused to recognise the reality on the ground, and to intervene to address the huge teacher supply issues across the state.
“The Minister has made it clear that Special Education Teachers should not be used in this way, but has done nothing to ensure an alternative.
“If the Minister was actually serious about addressing this, and safeguarding Special Education teaching hours, there are two things she could have done.
“Firstly, she could have allocated funding in the Budget this week to expand substitution panels and address teacher supply, as I and many others had been calling for.
“Secondly, she can immediately reverse the decision to remove banked hours in schools this year, ensuring that special educational teaching hours are not being lost due to her failure to address the substitution crisis.
“The Minister cannot bury her head in the sand with this. I know that since these comments, hundreds of school leaders across the country have been contacting the Department of Education to outline the huge issues they have faced trying to find appropriate substitution for their classes.
“I urge the Minister to listen to school leaders, to take urgent steps to tackle teacher supply, and crucially to reverse the decision to remove banked hours from schools.”