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Half of younger teachers consider emigration due to living costs - poll

Teaching unions’ Easter conferences get under way with debate around recruitment ‘crisis’ set to dominate

Half of younger teachers say they would consider leaving Ireland to teach abroad due to factors such as the accommodation crisis and disillusionment with their jobs, according to a survey.

The findings come as all three teaching unions’ annual conferences begin this week with measures to tackle what they describe as a recruitment and retention crisis set to dominate.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) poll of members found that 51 per cent of those hired in the past decade said that they would consider leaving Ireland to teach in another country. The online survey of 736 members was carried out last month.

From a list, they cited disillusionment with their teaching job in Ireland, the opportunity to save money and issues related to the accommodation crisis as being the top three factors.


In addition, the poll found that just over one in three (35 per cent) of respondents who entered the profession in recent years received a contract of full hours upon initial appointment, while fewer still (12 per cent) were offered a permanent position on appointment.

The TUI has called for a range of measures to tackle staff shortages including full-time jobs upon initial appointment, a reinstatement of allowances formerly paid to teachers, more career opportunities and full recognition of teaching service overseas for those wishing to return to the Irish education system.

“We know from international colleagues that Ireland is far from unique in having a teacher recruitment and retention crisis,” said TUI president David Waters.

“This means that other education systems will increasingly seek out our highly qualified graduates unless they are incentivised to stay here. Failure to do so will undoubtedly see the crisis worsen greatly. We’ve seen enough sticking plaster measures from the Department – real action is now a necessity to keep teachers in front of classrooms.”

The union says schools must be provided with enhanced staffing allocations so that they can provide secure jobs on full hours if graduates are to choose Ireland over other jurisdictions.

It says serious consideration should also be given to halving the duration of the two-year professional master of education (PME), which has replaced the old “Hdip” qualification.

Minister for Education Norma Foley, who is addressing all three teachers’ conferences this week, has said the “vast majority” of sanctioned teacher positions are filled and the rate of resignation and retirement is “very low”.

The most recent budget includes measures to cushion the cost of the PME by €2,000, while an additional 1,000 middle-management posts are due to be provided in the school system for the 2024-25 school year.

Ms Foley has said teaching remains an attractive career choice, with starting pay for primary teachers at more than €41,000 and for post-primary teachers more than €42,000 since October under the extension to the public sector pay deal. Further increases will arise under the new public sector pay agreement.

More than 3,700 newly qualified teachers registered with the Teaching Council last year, with a record 122,000 teachers now on the Teaching Council register.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) conference got under way on Monday afternoon in Derry, while the TUI and Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) annual gatherings are due to get under way on Tuesday in Wexford and Killarney, respectively.

All three will debate motions calling for action to address recruitment and retention.

The INTO will debate calls for an allowance – similar to the London weighting allowance – to compensate for higher living costs in cities. Members argue that such a move could help cushion “extortionate accommodation costs” in cities.

This stance is not supported by other teaching unions who say such a move would be difficult to implement equitably.

The ASTI will debate a motion calling for teaching service abroad in recognised second-level schools to be included in the calculation of teachers’ starting salaries, as will the TUI.

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