Shortage of substitute teachers causing ‘major disruption’

A “massive shortage” of substitute teachers is causing disruptions in classrooms across the county, says a Donegal teacher’s union representative.

Delegates who attended The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) Congress have demanded full substitute teacher coverage for all approved teacher absences. This includes family illness leave, self-certified sick leave and course days.

“The motion we passed will ensure that every day a child attends school they are taught by a fully qualified teacher,” explained Donegal INTO Representative, Áine McGinley.


As it stands, if a substitute teacher is not available the absent teachers class gets split-up into other classrooms causing school-wide disruptions.

“This is very disruptive for both the children who are being spilt up but also the classroom the children go into because they end up with 5 or 6 additional children,” said Ms McGinley.

The alternative is having Special Education Teachers, with full caseloads of their own, cover classes, to the detriment of pupils with additional needs.

During the event the union acknowledged that the shortage of fully qualified teachers for substitute cover is a complex issue, with several contributing factors, including the housing crisis, which is exacerbated in urban areas.

But Ms McGinley stressed that this is not exclusive to cities, and that the problem is also affecting rural areas.

“Teachers have told me that they are finding it very hard to get teachers to cover some of our schools in rural parts of Donegal,” she added.

Schools have been grappling with teacher shortages for a number of years, this prompted the introduction of supply panels, which the INTO has welcomed.


The teacher supply panel scheme currently provides vital support to schools for short-term absences. Schools who are involved in the scheme in Donegal have told Ms McGinley that it is working really well.

However, members are now demanding that the scheme must be expanded to cover all primary schools in the county.

“I know they’re trying to increase the number of teachers in training at the minute, but the fact that they are not yet trained means this will be an on-going issue for the next number of years unless those supply panels are expanded,” Ms McGinley added.

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