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How to come back to Ireland after teaching abroad

From an Irish Teacher's Perspective.

I'm a primary school teacher, teaching in Doha, Qatar at the moment. In 2014, I emigrated to the UK to study and since then, haven’t returned home. It's been five whole years since I've lived in the Emerald Isle. Since leaving, I've trained in the UK to be a Primary School Teacher, taught in the UK and moved to Qatar to teach for three years. It's now time for me to apply for my teaching council number and I'm finding the whole process to be a mixture of confusing, unnecessary and time-consuming.

Returning to Ireland to Teach

The Independent recently published an article entitled: 'Bring them home: Minister plans UAE trip to tackle teacher crisis'. In the article, it stated that:

“Education Minister Joe McHugh is heading to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) within months to talk to Irish teachers about coming home."

As primary and post-primary schools struggle to fill vacancies, it is estimated at least 6,000 Irish teachers are working abroad, with significant numbers in the UAE and the neighbouring states of Oman and Qatar. The process of coming home to teach in Ireland is, however, fraught with issues and hoops these teachers will have to jump through if they wish to return home. I'd like to outline some steps that could be taken to, as Mr McHugh said "smoothen their return".

    How do you obtain your teaching council number while abroad?

    With great difficulty is the simple answer!
    On the Teaching Council website, it explains what the application process involves:
    The application process involves submitting a completed Application Form, together with academic transcripts, proof of identity, evidence of character, the application fee and other documentary evidence. All applicants must also undergo the Garda Vetting process which can be completed at the same time as an application for registration. Each application is assessed according to set criteria regarding qualifications and teaching experience, as well as evidence of character.

    With the current lack of permanent primary teaching jobs in Ireland, it is wise to begin this process before you return home in search of a job. In order to obtain your teaching council number, you must download and fill out the (lengthy) PRQA-01 form, which can be downloaded here: PRQA- 01 Form.

    Assessment of your teaching qualification

    If like me, you trained overseas, you will need to send pages 6 & 7 (see below) of the PRQA-01 form to the university you studied in. This page alone (page 7) needs to be completedsigned, and stamped by the university and returned to you (with the original stamp). Page 6 of this form is a breakdown of the different modules in which you covered during your course. Page 6 can actually be completed by the applicant, using their transcript and/or course handbook. If your university will fill out page 6 for you, even better!

    This process was not straight forward! I studied at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England. While the university itself was fantastic, getting the administration team to complete these forms for me was not! They refused to fill out page 7 of this form, as they stated that they didn't fill in individual forms and that they would provide me with an emigration letter instead. This was not accepted by the
    Teaching Council, leaving me completely stranded and in no-man's land really.

    In the end, I panicked and emailed every lecturer and tutor I had while studying at this university and asked for assistance, urgently. Eventually, the head of Primary Teacher Training replied to me and agreed to helping me out with my request. Having discussed this issue with some other former expats online, they too went through the same problem with their university in the UK.

    To improve this process...

    Realistically, the Teaching Council of Ireland should have a list of universities in which they accept/recognise the qualifications from. I know of other teachers that qualified from the same university and are now teaching in Ireland, meaning that the Teaching Council do/can accept my degree, but still, I have to jump through innumerable hoops in order to get my qualification assessed.

    If the Irish government are looking to find a solution to the current teacher crisis, offering some assistance with obtaining a teaching council number while abroad would be a strong place to start.

    Obtaining a Character Reference

    As part of the registration process, you are required to submit a character reference. This is a section on the lengthy form mentioned above. It must be completed by a professional person, naturally not a family member. To complete this part of the form while abroad, it's best to ask the principal of your current school to provide you with the character reference. There must be an official school stamp on this reference, in the space provided (see below).

    The original reference, filled out by the professional, must be sent to the Teaching Council as part of your application. Photocopies or scanned copies will not suffice! Teaching in the Middle East makes this process even harder. The lack of postal options here makes it close to impossible to submit all these required, original forms.

    To improve this process...

    To "smoothen" the transition of returning to teach in Ireland, it would make a lot of sense for the Teaching Council to accept scanned copies of these documents for expat teachers, even on a conditional basis. Thus, allowing us a chance to get the application process started, followed by providing the original documents on our return.

    If the Irish government are looking to find a solution to the current teacher crisis, offering some assistance with obtaining a teaching council number while abroad would be a strong place to start.

    Obtaining a Police Clearance in the country you currently live in

    This is probably the easiest step to complete while still living in the country you are teaching in. Obviously, each country is different, so applying for police clearance will vary, depending on where you live. However, this is something you must submit along with your application, in order to obtain your teaching council number. It's something that should be got as soon as possible to prevent any problems or delays towards the end of your time in that particular country.

    Any other Business

    While abroad, the rest of the form can be completed by the applicant in their own time. To apply prior to your return to Ireland, you will need to submit by post:

    • The entire, completed PRQA-01 form (with original copies and stamps from the university, police clearance and character reference).
    • A transcript of your teaching degree.
    • A document stating you have completed your induction/NQT year. If you trained in the UK, you can obtain this certificate here.
    • A document stating you have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). If you trained in the UK, you can obtain this certificate here.
    Without my Mam being the middle woman, I would have struggled to post half of these documents off to the Teaching Council prior to my return home to Ireland. It was the most time-consuming process and it's not even finished yet. I still have to actually get my teaching council number. (This could take up to 12 weeks).

    To improve this process...

    The Irish Government need to guarantee that our years spent teaching abroad are counted towards our teaching experience on our return, so that we won't be paid the same as newly qualified teachers. Expat teachers are returning to Ireland to face a lot of hassle and costs, rather than a "smooth transition". If the Irish government want expat teachers to return, they need to take a look at the hoops we have to jump through in order to actually teach at home.