INTO calls for recruitment of emigrating teachers to combat large class sizes

Union says less than 5 per cent of graduating primary teachers get permanent job

It is a disgrace that highly qualified teaching graduates are being forced to emigrate at a time when Ireland has the most overcrowded classes in the euro zone, the president of the INTO primary teachers' union has said.

Sean McMahon said hundreds of qualified teacher graduates were available for work in Irish schools to reduce overcrowding in classes. “Many have been forced to emigrate but would return if there was a chance of decent employment in Ireland.”

Pay disparity

Speaking at the INTO annual congress in Ennis, he also condemned the ongoing pay disparity between more recent graduates and experienced teachers, noting that since 2008 the gross pay of a new teacher had been reduced by more than 20 per cent.

About 10 per cent of the State’s 32,000 primary teachers are in non-permanent posts, and casualisation is greatest among new entrants.


Roughly 1,600 teachers graduate each year from primary teaching colleges but less than 5 per cent would get a permanent job, according to union estimates.

Latest figures from the department of education show one in four primary pupils, or 125,000 children, are taught in "supersize" classes of 30 or more. The average class size at primary level is 24, which is the largest in the EU after the UK, according to the OECD.

Mr McMahon also expressed concern at the regional imbalance in class sizes which left some schools in urban areas “bursting at the seams” while rural schools were underutilised.

He claimed that since Budget 2010 “an inequitable assault had begun on smaller schools”.

However, he welcomed the fact that Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan had recently rejected a value-for-money report which had recommended further rationalisation.

Fianna Fail spokesman on education Charlie McConalogue has also called for more teachers to be recruited to drive down class sizes.

“There is absolutely no doubt that children stuck in these supersized classrooms are suffering a lower standard of learning despite the very best effort of teachers,” Mr McConalogue said.

Casualisation is also to feature strongly at the annual conference of the TUI, which estimates that at least 30 per cent of secondary teachers are employed on a part-time basis.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column