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Retention of teachers to be central issue at conferences

Barriers to the recruitment and retention of teachers are set to be a central issue at this year’s teacher trade union conferences, the first of which begins in Derry.

Primary teacher union, the INTO, will open the debate with a motion blaming “ongoing extortionate accommodation costs” for the shortage of teachers in urban schools.

The conference will hear that schools in cities and surrounding areas are unable to recruit and retain teachers as a result.

It will call for a special allowance for teachers working in cities, like that offered in the UK to teachers working in London.

Second level teachers’ union, the ASTI, will debate calls for the two-year masters for teaching to be reduced to just one year.

The union notes that for most teachers the two-year masters, after a three- or four-year primary degree, means a qualifying period of up to six years. It also sees the high cost of the PME – estimated to be in the region of €10,000 – €15,000 in fees – acts as a further deterrent to entering the profession.

The Teachers Union of Ireland will call for contracts of full hours to be offered to newly recruited teachers as one of several measures to try and make the job more attractive.

All unions want to see measures introduced to encourage Irish teachers working abroad to return home.

The potential negative impact of AI on education and in particular the assessment of students is another hot issue for both second level unions.

A key motion at ASTI Annual Convention in Wexford will explore the potential uses that AI might be put to by students who are completing projects as part of Leaving Certificate assessment.

The union says their concerns are particularly relevant given Minister for Education Norma Foley’s proposal that newly reformed Leaving Certificate subjects will give a greater proportion of marks for coursework completed during the year as opposed to written exams.

The TUI will hear that AI should not be allowed to replace or displace the work of teachers or lecturers and should only be used where it can complement the work of the educator and enrich the experience of the learner.

Minister Foley will address primary school teachers in Derry this evening. She will attend the ASTI convention in Wexford tomorrow, before travelling on to Killarney where she will address TUI delegates on Wednesday.

The minister has announced the second tranche of grant funding due to schools under the Digital Strategy for Schools programme. €50 million for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will be issued shortly to primary and post-primary schools.

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