Housing crisis adversely affecting lives of students, say 75% of TUI teachers

Union survey says cost-of-living issues are worsening the challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers

The housing crisis is negatively affecting the lives of teachers and students in schools, according to a new survey by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).

The poll of just over 1,300 members last month found that 98 per cent of teachers who were renting agreed it is “very difficult” to secure new accommodation in their locality, while 75 per cent believe housing shortages and uncertainty are having an adverse effect on the lives of students in schools.

The findings also highlight what the union describes as a “recruitment and retention crisis” in the profession, with many members on part-time hours and without permanent positions in the early years of their careers.

The results come as the three main teachers’ unions begin their annual Easter conferences. Minster for Education Norma Foley s due to address them, separately, on Tuesday and Wednesday.


The TUI survey found that, of those employed after 2011, just 31 per cent received a contract of full hours upon initial appointment, with just 13 per cent offered a permanent position.

Of those who did not receive a contract of full hours, it took 33 per cent more than three years to secure one.

TUI president Liz Farrell said the findings highlight the “absolute need” for full-time work with a full salary upon initial appointment, along with more promotional opportunities, if teacher shortages are to be tackled.

“This is unsustainable if we are to continue to have teachers in front of classes in the months and years ahead, particularly in the context a cost-of-living crisis,” she said.

“As highly qualified graduates, teachers must be provided with secure jobs on full hours if they are to choose the profession. This is also required if we want to bring home our teachers from other jurisdictions.”

They survey also found that most respondents – 68 per cent – do not believe that there are enough assistant principal posts to meet the educational and pastoral needs of their school community, while most agree they would be more likely to remain in the profession if more of these posts were available in their schools.

The survey findings show significant involvement in extracurricular activities outside of school hours despite the increasing bureaucratic duties and administrative burdens in schools.

“Posts of responsibility, which ensure the smooth running of schools while also providing pastoral support for students, were cut severely in the last recession,” Ms Farrell said. “These posts have never been fully restored to previous levels, which means that a generation of teachers has not had access to the same career opportunities as their longer-serving colleagues.”

The need for these supports was underlined, Ms Farrell said, by a survey finding that 93 per cent of respondents believe the range of challenges faced by students has increased in the last five years.

Bureaucracy was also highlighted as an issue deflecting teachers from teaching and learning, with 91 per cent agreeing that paperwork was a distraction from their core role.

A majority – 65 per cent – said they would consider leaving the profession early due to increasing workload and bureaucratic duties.

Ms Farrell said teachers must be allowed to “teach and not be worn down by excessive box-ticking and bureaucratic duties”.

Despite these pressures, teachers said they continue to make significant contributions to their school communities on a voluntary basis, with just over half (53 per cent) involved in extracurricular activities outside school hours, such as sport, drama, music and debating.

Ms Foley is expected to update conference delegates on measures being taken by the Department of Education to tackle teacher supply issues.

These measures include allowing second-level teachers to provide additional hours of substitute cover in the subject they are qualified to teach; greater flexibility to allow student teachers to provide more substitute cover; lifting financial penalties for retired teachers providing cover, and allowing job-sharing teachers to work in a substitute capacity during the period they are rostered off.

She has said longer-term measures are also in place including an increase in the number of places on teacher upskilling programmes in priority subjects such as maths, Spanish and physics, while CAO first-preference choices for post-primary teaching have increased this year by 11 per cent.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent