Restrictions are set to be put in place that will affect career breaks for teachers in Ireland, according to Education Minister Richard Bruton.
Speaking at the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) last Friday, Bruton expressed concern that there are a “growing number” of teachers working full-time, often abroad, while on career breaks.
His department will be advising school boards that career breaks should only be granted if the school is in a position to fill the temporary vacancy that would be created and only on the basis of the permitted reasons.
“The purpose of the career break scheme, as set out on my department website, is to facilitate personal development, voluntary service overseas, childcare or self-employment,” said Bruton.
Teachers’ unions do not fully agree that career breaks are the sole factor contributing to staff shortages.
Gemma Tuffy, speaking on behalf of the ASTI, outlined the union’s response to Bruton’s comments:
“The vacancies which school principals are trying to fill are not only career breaks, for example, many principals are trying to fill maternity leave vacancies. The way to address teacher shortages at second level is to provide equal pay arrangements for all teachers and to address the casual hours issue in second-level teaching.”
Bruton addressed the difficulties with recruiting substitute teachers. To solve this, he said restrictions will be lifted that stop teachers who are on a career break from doing substitute work.
Currently, teachers on career breaks can be hired by schools under “exceptional circumstances”. However, they are only permitted to teach up to 90 days over the course of an academic year.
He highlighted that the scheme is not in place to allow teachers to take another full-time job while still holding the right to return to their previous position:
“Its purpose is not to facilitate someone from taking another full-time job while retaining the right to return to their former teaching job at any point for up to five years.”
Recent figures show that there are at least 2,300 teachers on career breaks. This is an increase of almost 10 per cent from last year.
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