22 April, 2019 - Minister McHugh announces creation of substitute teacher panels for primary schools

Up to 90 schools in six areas in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Cork and Galway targeted under initiative to ease supply pressure for substitute vacancies at primary level

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. has today, Monday 22 April, announced the creation of six substitute teacher panels for schools in urban and rural areas.

North and South Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kildare and Meath are being targeted in the new initiative to provide more certainty for schools experiencing staffing shortages.The pilot scheme will see up to 18 teachers hired on full-time contracts. Each teacher will be based in one school and rotate among up to 15 other schools as part of a substitute cluster covering both urban and rural areas with the potential for the scheme to cover 90 schools.

Minister Mc Hugh said: “The creation of substitute teacher supply panels is a direct response to staffing difficulties I’ve heard about from teachers, principals and management bodies. “We are initially focusing the panels on Dublin, Galway and Cork and also the commuter belts in Kildare and Meath. These are where significant staffing pressures are being felt.

“Much like the clustering initiative for post-primary schools to work together and share teachers in some subjects, we are now asking principals and management to put the best foot forward to make these new substitute panels work.

“Primary schools are being asked to collaborate and work together in clusters in each of the six areas. And I urge them to see this as an effective solution.

“These substitute supply panels have great potential to support schools in tackling the issue of staff shortages, to reduce administrative burden and improve access to quality, reliable substitute cover.“I look forward to seeing this pilot project in action and I hope it will also deepen innovation and co-operation among schools.”

Here are some of the details of the pilot scheme for substitute teacher supply panels:

  • Two substitute teacher supply panels will operate in Dublin along with one each in Kildare, Meath, Cork and Galway from the start of the 2019/20 school year. These are the locations that have been identified as having the greatest challenge in terms of sourcing substitute teachers.


  • It is intended that each supply panel cluster will consist of 10-15 schools with two-three teachers assigned to each panel on a full-time basis.


  • It is envisaged that each teacher on a panel will be employed by one school in the cluster, i.e. the base school, on a one-year full-time fixed-term contract.


  • The teachers will be assigned to schools in the cluster to provide substitution as required.
  • It is envisaged that each cluster will include a broad cross-section of school types, including rural schools. Schools will need to be reasonably close to each other in order to maximise the efficiency of the panel.


  • The details of the operation of the scheme are currently being finalised with a view to ensuring that it meets the needs of the participating schools in an efficient and effective manner


  • The Department will shortly be contacting schools in the selected locations regarding participation in the scheme.


  • The Substitute Teacher Supply Panels will operate on a pilot basis for one year. It will be reviewed towards the end of the 2019/20 school year to determine whether the scheme should be continued in 2020/21.

Notes for Editors

(a) Steering Group on Teacher Supply The Steering Group on Teacher Supply is leading on a programme of actions to address concerns about the supply of teachers. The Steering Group is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills. The Group held its first meeting on 26 March 2018.

(b) Teacher Supply StructuresThe Steering Group leads on the identification of issues, the development of a programme of actions on teacher supply and oversees its implementation. An Implementation Group supports the work of the Steering Group.The Group is also supported in its work by a number of working groups which consider and report on particular issues. The working groups report to the Implementation Group.

(c) Teacher Supply Action PlanThe Teacher Supply Action Plan contains a range of priority actions identified through the work of the Steering Group and engagement with stakeholders. These actions are classified under four broad headings:

• Data collection and analysis• Promotion of the teaching profession• Higher education policy• Policies and arrangements for schools and teachers that impact on teacher supply and demand.Actions to date include:• Agreement with higher education institutions for additional four-year undergraduate post-primary initial teacher education programmes for 2019/20 and 2020/19, including in targeted subjects.-• Additional funding of €1m for the Student Assistance Fund for Professional Master of Education students for 2018/19.-• Teaching Council has commenced a review of the implementation of student teacher school placement guidelines.

• A national consultative forum for stakeholders and six focus groups for teachers, principals and parents and student teachers have been held, to gather feedback to inform actions.

• “Teaching Transforms” campaign (digital, radio and video) launched to promote the teaching profession, supported by a new dedicated webpage providing signposting to initial teacher education providers and other relevant information  

• The development of an online portal for teacher recruitment is planned, and exploratory work is currently underway as to how best to deliver this.

• A new initiative has been launched to enable schools at post-primary level to share teachers. Under the scheme, schools can partner together to employ a teacher in a base school, who is ‘shared’ with another school. This enables teachers who might otherwise not have full-time hours to access more teaching hours, and is a means for schools to offer a broader range of subjects to children, and to cover the provision of subjects where it can be harder to recruit a teacher. It also enables the sharing of best practice between schools. The pilot scheme is established for roll-out in September 2019 with schools invited to apply to participate.

• It has been identified that there are qualified teachers working overseas who may be interested in returning to Ireland to take up positions as teachers. There may also be people working as teachers abroad who do not hold a teaching qualification who are interested in achieving this.  The Minister for Education and Skills intends to visit the UAE before the end of the academic year to meet with Irish people working in education there and to make them aware of the opportunities available here, including those that have come about through new initiatives. 

A copy of the Teacher Supply Action Plan is available here: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/teacher-supply-action-plan.pdf