There has been much media attention on the shortage of teachers in Ireland recently. It seems a bizarre turnaround considering only a few years ago, secondary school teachers were leaving en masse to the UK, UAE, Vietnam and elsewhere to get a full-time position and solid career experience to put on their CV.
Secondary teaching in Ireland has its own unique nuances that make it different to the primary schooling system. The primary reason many teachers, or recent graduates, decided to make the move abroad was because of a lack of available hours, and the short-term nature of contracts. Unlike primary teachers, secondary school teachers are paid based on the hours they spend directly teaching per week, with 22 hours being considered a full-time role. Another variable that secondary school teachers need to consider before coming home is in terms of the subjects they are qualified to teach. This is a crucial determinant as to whether a secondary school teacher may decide to return home.
Returning home? Depends on what you teach.
What sets secondary school teachers apart from other professions experiencing a labour shortage is that it is very much a subject-specific shortage. If you are a Humanities (History and Geography), English, CSPE or Business Studies teacher, you are unfortunately in a category where there is simply more teachers than there is demand for. You will find it difficult to get a Contract of Indefinite Duration (CID) and could be facing precarious substitute positions for several years.
If however, you teach Irish, a Modern Foreign Language (MFL), Physics, Chemistry or Home Economics, you’re in luck. The shortage of Irish secondary school teachers is so acute that some schools are trying to ‘poach’ primary schools teachers into the sector. Secondary school teachers qualifying with Physics as their teaching subject are minuscule compared to the demand. If your area of expertise matches any of these categories, you really can shop around, suss out schools, meet principals, and decide which school you like the most or see yourself working in. There is also a huge demand for guidance counselors in almost all schools.
Demand for Maths teachers is also high, particularly at Leaving Certificate Higher Level. The more niche subjects such as Art, Technology and Woodwork have seen a recovery as schools have the resources to expand again, but bear in mind these are optional subjects with usually only one or two teachers in these subjects per school.
Another option for teachers of all subjects is Gaelcholáistí. The second-level Irish medium sector isn’t as big as the primary equivalent, but nonetheless it is growing and because of the niche nature of the Irish language sector, the demand for teachers is high. Island schools are finding it particularly difficult to recruit teachers. The need is most acute for Home Economics and the Sciences but opportunities exist for all subjects.
Changes to curriculum and career progression
There have been significant changes throughout the education system in Ireland in recent years. The Junior Certificate has been completely, and controversially, overhauled, with new subjects and a radically new approach towards internal assessment. Short courses as diverse as Coding, Philosophy and Jewish Studies can be undertaken alongside the established choices. All information regarding the new Junior Cycle is available here.
Another factor to consider if you’re thinking of returning is career progression. Ireland doesn’t have many opportunities for career progression aside from year head, assistant, deputy and principal roles. Think about your long-term goals in this regard. Opportunities are growing for secondment to the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and many teachers transition to roles in the State Examinations Commission and the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills.