Special courses to enable homemakers -  typically a two-year Masters programme -  to retrain as teachers is one of a number of measures to be considered by the Department of Education to address a chronic shortage of school teachers.

Second level schools are experiencing great difficulty, and sometimes finding it impossible, to hire teachers who are qualified to teach a range of subjects including maths, Irish, and European languages.

The comments came at the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said his department was considering ways of encouraging people who are homemakers to become teachers, through the use of springboard courses.

These are typically one year courses, funded by the Government and designed to enable people to retrain in areas of the economy where there are skills gaps.

Last year, eligibility for springboard courses was extended to homemakers for the first time. However, teaching is not currently included.

The Department later clarified that for teaching they would envisage people doing the same course as others training to become teachers, but for free through the Springboard scheme.

This would be typically a two-year Masters programme. 

"We know the labour market is getting quite tight," a Department of Education official added.

"We know there is a population there who have third level qualifications. Typically, it is mothers in the home. We have to look at how we encourage these people to enter the labour market."

Mr Bruton said that this was one of a range of possible initiatives to be considered.

Rules discouraging retired teachers from returning to work as substitutes in schools have already been relaxed. Consideration is also being given to allowing students who are in the process of qualifying as teachers to teach.

Mr Bruton said he was confident that the current shortage would not affect budget plans to increase the number of teachers across the primary and second level by 1,300.

He said that the flow of people coming out of the teacher training colleges was greater than that.

However, NAPD president Cathnia Ó Muircheartaigh says that unless the current chronic teacher shortage is addressed he can not see how those posts would be filled.

The teacher shortage is being experienced at both primary and second level.

Within that overall shortage there are also not enough people specifically qualified to teach certain subjects at second level.

The NAPD said that one of the factors causing the shortage was the attraction of going abroad for young newly qualified teachers, where they can often enjoy better pay and conditions. 

Some principals believe the problem is most acute in Dublin. They say the housing crisis was making the capital more difficult for teachers to live in.