Current Volume, Vol. 48, 2024

Exploring Staff Retention in Youthreach:Ireland’s Response to Early School Leaving

Sean Manley and Margaret Farren

A national review of Ireland’s Youthreach education programme for early school leavers found staff retention to be a future challenge for the programme (Smyth et al., 2019). With no previous research into staff retention in Youthreach, this study explores the unique characteristics of the programme to identify variables influencing staff intention to leave. This mixed-methods study used emerging themes from interviews with former staff to identify constructs of interest and select quantitative tools grounded in the culture and perspective of the participants. Analysis of the quantitative data included a hierarchical multiple regression model to assess the strength of the relationships between intention to leave and independent variables. Alongside complementing existing research on teacher retention, the study draws attention to emerging themes specific to Youthreach; the most significant of these being staff burnout, role equity, and work commitment, which are included in the final regression model. The study findings highlight the profound emotional impact that working with at-risk young people had on Youthreach staff. A strong sense of inequity in professional standing contributed to intention to leave and was a possible recruitment barrier. [DOWNLOAD PDF]

Considering Reform at Senior Cycle: Teachers’ Feelings and Beliefs About High-Stakes Assessment Following the Onset of COVID-19

Michael O’Leary and Zita Lysaght

In March 2022, the Minister for Education in Ireland announced her plans to redevelop senior cycle; in tandem, a press release from the Department of Education advised that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the State Examinations Commission (SEC), in consultation with education partners, would jointly research how an externally moderated, school-based form of assessment would operate. Hence, the stage seems set for potentially significant change to the Leaving Certificate Examination (LCE), after almost 100 years, despite vociferous teacher union opposition to its members’ involvement in assessment for certification. Against that backdrop, this article draws on the findings of two surveys that explored teachers’ feelings and beliefs about such involvement, based on their experiences of having to assess their own students’ work when COVID-19 necessitated the introduction of systems of calculated grades and accredited grades in 2020 and 2021. A key finding was that, while the majority of teachers reported not wanting to be involved in an assessment of this kind, a significant minority (approximately one in three) held different views, suggesting that individual teachers’ feelings and beliefs may not be immutable to change, despite collective union opposition. [DOWNLOAD PDF]