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Ireland must stop forcing us overseas, teacher warns

For the third successive day, recruitment and retention in schools have been raised with the Minister for Education Norma Foley at the teachers’ conferences.

Minister Foley has acknowledged that more needs to be done to ease staffing problems in schools.

Throughout the week, the recruitment and retention of teachers have been among the dominant issues.

When these issues are raised, delegates are more than likely talking about people like Nessa O’Meara.

Nessa is a teacher of History and English at Coláiste Eoin in Hackettstown, Co Carlow.

She qualified as a teacher in 2014.

Minister for Education Norma Foley in Killarney today

Nessa was three years out of college when she secured her first job in teaching.

It was a contract to teach six hours per week.

Nessa had to supplement her income by doing substitute teaching work to make up the hours.

Her story is typical of many teachers: thousands of new graduates every year emerging to a shortage of teachers in schools, but relatively few managing to secure jobs.

“For the first three years I had to take on as much subbing work as I could,” Nessa, a delegate at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) conference in Killarney, told RTÉ News.

Staff recruitment features prominently at the TUI conference

“I searched the length and breadth of the country for a job, but it was impossible.”

Even when she secured a six-hour teaching contract after three years, Nessa could not make plans for herself and her family.

“At that time I had two children and I was married, but we couldn’t make life plans or move on with things,” Nessa said. “We couldn’t search for a house or even entertain that idea.

“At the time, we really considered moving abroad, like a lot of my friends at the time were doing, for a better quality of life.”

It took Nessa a further four years before she secured a contract for full hours.

Nessa says that this is why so many teaching graduates, who were educated in Ireland, are now teaching abroad.

Her union agrees.

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The TUI estimates that there are more than 4,000 Irish qualified teachers working in places like Dubai.

It says that many of these teachers would like to return home to Ireland, but that they are effectively penalised because their time teaching abroad won’t be recognised at home for salary and increment purposes.

David Waters, TUI President, raised this issue directly with Norma Foley today in Killarney after the minister had addressed the union’s congress.

“To put it simply,” Mr Waters told the minister, “we need teachers, and we have an abundance of them abroad, who trained and qualified in Ireland, yet we are doing nothing to make the thought of them coming home remotely attractive”.

Mr Waters predicted that what the TUI currently calls a crisis will become a catastrophe unless action is taken.

Minister Foley rejected the TUI’s claim that there is a staffing crisis

Minister Foley would not accept the union’s categorisation of recruitment and retention being in crisis, but she does accept there’s work to be done.

“I acknowledge that we have done an awful lot of work. I equally acknowledge that there is more work to do,” Norma Foley told RTÉ News.

“We will do it in the spirit of partnership with everybody in the education sector.”

Nessa O’Meara feels she could contribute to that spirit of partnership.

“I have friends teaching abroad and they would come home in a heart beat, to their families and friends, if there were positions there, which we know there are for them.

“But they want to be recognised; they want their teaching service in all these places to be recognised,” Nessa says.

“My message to Minister Foley would be: we have the best teachers in the world, but they have gone to every part of the world. We need to make teaching more enticing to them, to bring them back home.”

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