€230m in savings from reduced pay for new teachers

The Department of Education has saved close to €230m since 2011 by putting new entrants to teaching on lower pay than their colleagues.

Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner also reveal that it would add nearly €80m to Education Minister Richard Bruton’s budget to put all those who began their teaching careers since 2011 back on equal pay.

The department said the total cumulative savings made through the reduced pay rates from 2011, and changes to allowances made in 2012, have been around €230m. The figure covers the period up to the middle of 2017, and includes all employees in the education and training sector. The majority of those are teaching staff.

“The estimated full-year cost of restoring all post-January 2011 entrants to the pre-2011 pay scale arrangements is of the order of €80m,” the department said.

The restoration cost represents less than 1% of Mr Bruton’s 2017 non-capital budget of €9bn, which includes the pay of around 68,500 primary and second-level teachers.

The absence of a timeline for restoring equal pay in the latest public service pay deal was a major factor in its strong rejection by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Teachers’ Union of Ireland. The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland’s members are being urged by their leaders to do the same in an imminent ballot, largely on the same grounds.

Last week, Mr Bruton said restoring equal pay across the entire public service would be around €250m a year. He said that restoring equal pay for teachers could require him to look in his 2018 budget at reducing extra supports to children with special needs, or to schools catering for more disadvantaged students.

Teachers would account for the largest single proportion of equal pay restoration, because teaching posts continued to be created in schools to keep up with rising school populations, while strict hiring restrictions were maintained in most areas of the public service.

The 68,500 school teachers employed in the country’s 4,000 schools represents an increase from less than 60,000 in 2012, with pupil numbers rising from 810,000 to over 920,000 in the same period.

The additional teachers include nearly 4,000 more working with children with special educational needs or with disabilities, bringing the number of those teachers to almost 15,000.

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