Schools will be able to employ teachers and other staff without paying them as part of a FÁS work experience programme that has been extended today.

Under the Work Placement Programme, schools will be able to employ for up to 40 hours a week and for up to nine months people who are currently unemployed.

Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan said the move would help unemployed people keep their skills up and gain valuable work experience.

Anyone brought in under the work experience scheme cannot displace another staff member and cannot fill a vacant post.

However the primary teachers' trade union the INTO said the scheme offered no prospects to teachers other than the prospect of working for nothing.

Schools may use the Work Placement Programme to engage teachers as well as non-teaching graduates and non-graduates.

The announcement comes after the Department of Education on Friday announced a freeze on the filling of vacant permanent teaching posts.

On Friday, the department also instructed schools to cut the pay of secretaries and other ancillary staff by 5%.