The Minister for Education has said she accepts there is "inordinate pressure" on teachers but added that the Government has made "considerable strides" for the provision of staff in schools.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Norma Foley said teaching remains a very attractive option with increases in CAO applications for teaching, and the starting salary of €38,000 compares favourably to jurisdictions like Britain.

Asked about what the Teachers' Union of Ireland called a "severe teacher recruitment and retention crisis", the minister said that more than 4,000 newly qualified teachers were coming on stream this year.

She also pointed to "augmented" substitution panels in primary schools and 1,250 third and fourth year students being registered with Teaching Council.

Asked about special allowances for teachers in high-price areas like Dublin, she said the Government was taking housing issues very seriously.

Separately, Ms Foley said the waiving of school transport fees was a welcome cost-of-living measure that resulted in the savings of more than €650 for some families.

She said there are now more than 115,000 students with access to the school transport scheme compared to 103,000 last year.

"There will be more capacity added as the day unfolds," she said.

Ms Foley said Bus Éireann is working through issues relating to the provision of buses and drivers.

The eligibility for concessionary tickets applies to those who are living more than 3.2km from the nearest primary school or 4.8km from the near post-primary school.

The minister said she appreciated in the short-term there will be an inconvenience for parents where there is not additional capacity for concessionary tickets.

Responding to reports that almost one in eight pupils were in overcrowded classrooms last year, she said she had taken "progressive and proactive" steps to reduce the teacher-pupil ratio to a "historic low" of 24:1.

She said that where there were classes with more than 30 pupils, there were other classes with fewer than 24.

Ms Foley said it was up to schools to decide where to disperse their staff, but added she was committed to reducing the teacher-pupil ratio further.

Asked about the decision to move the first papers for Irish and English in the Leaving Cert to the end of fifth year in the senior cycle, she said there was a need for senior cycle reform.

Ms Foley said the "single greatest factor" for parents and students was stress and the decision was taken to reduce this.

Principal 'shocked' by reduction in applications

Meanwhile, the principal of a primary school in Tipperary has said that she was "shocked" to receive just 30 applications for three fixed-term jobs recently.

Louise Tobin, principal of St Joseph's Primary School, also expressed concern that this may indicate a significant substitute teacher "crisis" once the school year is up and running around the country.

"We have our quota of teachers employed and ready to go for Thursday when we re-open but I am concerned," Ms Tobin told Today with Claire Byrne, adding that the school interviewed for three fixed-term positions.

"I was just shocked, we got less than 30 applications. Last year there was about 75 and the previous year it was 100 plus.

"It worried me because it’s an indicator that there probably will be the worst subs crisis we’ve ever had," she said.

Ms Tobin added: "If we had only 30 people interested in a job for the year, there must be a lot less numbers of people available for work. Who is going to do the sub days when a teacher is sick?"

She predicted that the academic year is "going to be very, very challenging" adding that many qualified teachers have gone abroad.