School management and teacher representative bodies have told an Oireachtas committee that urgent action is needed to address the teacher shortage in schools.

They called for the creation of teacher supply panels, which would offer guaranteed hours and pay to teachers who could then be available to do substitute work in a given region.

The Oireachtas Education Committee heard from representatives of the ASTI and INTO unions, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals and the Irish Primary Principals' Network, which represents school principals, and the Catholic Primary School Management Association.

The CPMSA called for financial inducements, if necessary, to attract retired teachers back into the system.

The committee heard that low pay rates for younger teachers, as well as high accommodation costs, were some of the main factors contributing to the shortage.

Deirdre O'Connor of the INTO said the union's online 'sub-search' facility showed that today, while schools were looking for teachers to fill 50 temporary posts, there were just 15 teachers available.

Páiric Clerkin, of the Irish Primary Principals' Network, said that gaelscoileanna, special schools, and schools in remote locations were among those most affected by the shortage.

Seamus Mulconry, of the CPSMA, said the issue went back to a lack of investment in schools generally.

Representatives of the ASTI and INTO said that cuts to teachers' pay in 2011 had resulted in younger graduates going abroad for bigger salaries. 

A survey conducted by The Irish Primary Principals' Network in January showed that 42% of schools failed on ten occasions or more to get substitute teachers since September last year. 

TDs and senators were told that some teachers who agree to go to Dublin to cover maternity leave are often forced to decline the position because they can not get accommodation.

The committee also heard from representatives from the special School and gaelscoileanna sectors.

Breda Corr, of the National Association of Boards of Management of Special Schools, said that, while the teacher shortage generally applied to finding teachers to cover short-term jobs created by maternity leave or sickness, special schools were having problems recruiting teachers to fill permanent year-long contracts.

Dónal Ó hAiniféin, representing gaelscoileanna, said the teacher shortage was greatly exacerbated in the Irish language sector because of the limited number of teachers who had high levels of Irish.

Additional reporting by Ailbhe Conneely

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