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Schools struggling to make up teacher numbers as new academic year looms

Tallinn's Läänemere Gümnaasium is one of the schools struggling to fill all teaching posts ahead of the 2023-2024 academic year.
Tallinn's Läänemere Gümnaasium is one of the schools struggling to fill all teaching posts ahead of the 2023-2024 academic year. Source: Tallinna Läänemere Gümnaasium social media page.

With around three weeks to go until the start of the new school year, many educational institutions are struggling to find enough teacher, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Wednesday.

The shortfall is around 100 nationwide, with the solution likely to be found with temporary supply teachers, many of whom are not fully qualified.

AK reported that in the forthcoming weeks as the new school year approaches, the staffroom at the Läänemere gümnaasium in Tallinn, should be full of teachers, preparing courses and lessons.

However, only a few suitable candidates have applied for the posts so far.

School director Deniss Presnetsov told AK that: "10 rounds of competitive processes have been held so far, and we found a few teachers from each of these. In total, five of these have now agreed to come and join our team. So we actually need to find 10 more people."

The Kiviõli Russian School (Kiviõli vene kool) in Ida-Viru County meanwhile is searching for eight teachers, plus a speech therapist and a special needs teacher.

School director Jelena Ragni said: "At the moment, all the schools in Ida-Virum County are looking for teachers and support staff. Unfortunately, I have to say that we have not been able to find qualified teachers for all these posts."

One solution is short-term supply teachers, who may not have the same qualifications as those being sought after.

The Ministry of Education is also favors this approach, due to the shortage.

Heidi Uustalu, head of educational management and teacher policy at the Ministry of Education and Research, located in Tartu, said that this would also provide those temporary staff with the option for continuous learning and retraining, thus plugging the gap on a more permanent basis and providing a new potential career to the supply teacher.

The lack of staff falls mainly in the areas of classroom teachers, teachers of music, science and the natural sciences.

The surge in volume of Estonian-language teaching has also made its effect known, and also means that fewer teachers are able to work overtime, another means by which shortages were addressed.

Some educators also spoke out on the new requirement that schools provide at least to "B" foreign languages – meaning foreign languages in addition to the "A" language, ie. English.

This ruling has been ill-conceived and is not realistic for all schools, exacerbated by the teacher shortages noted above, they say.

Kristi Tarik, principal of Kuusalu High School (Kuusalu keskkool), said: "Whereas there have been a few candidates for 'B'-foreign languages, at the moment none of these candidates have had a single day's experience in professional education or professional work experience. With chemistry, for example, there really haven't been any candidates at all. So what will actually happen now, if we really can't find anyone? There is no good plan in place."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Iida-Mai Einmaa.

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