Laois school faces 'crisis' due to national shortage of substitute teachers

St Colman's National School in Stradbally the subject of RTÉ report

The Electric Picnic has made RTÉ annual visitors to Stradbally but the station has visited the Laois town to highlight the crisis facing St Colman's NS and other primary schools around the country.

St Colman's is faced with staffing and financial problems due to a shortage of substituted teachers. This has led to recruitment of two student teachers who will only be partly paid by the State.

The Department of Education refuses to pay unqualified teachers for more than four days in a row. This means that the school, like others around the country, has to pay its two unqualified teachers for the next two Fridays out of its own resources. These funds have to be raised locally.

One of the teachers in Stradbally is working for the next two weeks covering sick leave. Caoimhne Whelan is teaching student teachers. In another classroom Annabelle Laffin is in a similar position.

While it is good experience for the young women, they will return to college in February like other student teachers which could lead to bigger problems. Andy Hanrahan is school principal in St Colman's.

"We're facing a total crisis for the rest of the year in my sector, the primary school sector. I know that we are hearing a lot in the news about the shortage of spaces in hospitals and shortage of houses but now it is a third sector the education sector. There are no qualified substitute teachers to cover," he told RTÉ reporter Emma O'Kelly.

The Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, admitted that there were problems with substitution but they would be addressed. He insisted that teaching was a strong employment opportunity for young people.

The Catholic School Management Association urged the Department to address the problem by reaching out to every qualified registered teacher who is not in a classroom to return from abroad or retirement.



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