Thousands of our brightest and best youngsters left these shores in pursuit of more viable job opportunities as the country languished in the fallout from the crash. Stock Image: PA

Ireland is still feeling the after-effects of the graduate brain drain that robbed the country of youthful talent during the depths of the recession.

Thousands of our brightest and best youngsters left these shores in pursuit of more viable job opportunities as the country languished in the fallout from the crash.

In a phenomenon not seen since the 1980s, airports filled with new graduates, teachers included, who were forced to leave in search of income and employment security.

Current teacher shortages can, in part, be traced back to that flight of graduates in the years after 2008.

Figures from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) confirm the scale of the exodus.

Among those who graduated in 2007, just before the crash, some 55pc had a job nine months later – of these 51pc were in Ireland and 4pc abroad.

By 2009, 8pc of employed graduates were working abroad and by 2013 it had trebled to a peak of 12pc.

Even though the jobs market here has recovered massively, the most recent available figures for 2016 showed that 8pc were working overseas nine months after graduation.

While some of the brightest departed Ireland’s shores forever, teachers at home were struggling through, with larger classes and without some of the extra classroom supports that help to level the playing field for the most disadvantaged.

Cuts included withdrawal of resource teachers for Travellers and in English language support for children of the new wave of immigrants to Ireland. At the height of the austerity, the number of school psychologists was capped.

A moratorium on filling promotional posts stretched schools further, with the absence of appointments to middle-management roles such as special needs co-ordinator and year heads that bring coherence to the running of schools that may have up to 1,000 pupils or more.

The cuts were all the more keenly felt at a time when pupil numbers were rising and against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world that demanded a more modern approach.

Increasingly, schools have relied on parents to make up the funding shortfall.

A report for the Catholic Primary School Management Association earlier this year suggests that, in primary schools alone, parents forked out €46m to help pay basic bills such as heating and lighting.

In higher education, the combination of rising student numbers and the reduction in capitation grants means that today – when averaged across their student intake – universities are getting only half of what they received from the State in 2008.

The last three budgets have seen an increase in funding for education, bringing a reversal or alleviation of some of the cuts. But it remains a system in catch-up.

Average pay rises of €3,300 for post-2011 entrants to the public service, including teachers, go a long way to closing the gap in the two-tier pay structure introduced at the height of the austerity era.

Lower entrant pay scales have been a running sore for teachers more than anyone else and that deal may heal that wound, even if scars are left.

Hopes are high that next week’s Budget will bring a reversal of another big education cut, the slashing of the capitation grants that pay for schools’ day-to-day running costs, which were deemed by many to be the most damaging of all the cost-saving measures imposed on education.

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