OECD: Ireland’s teachers among world’s best paid

Ireland’s teachers are among the world’s best paid, even after factoring in the first round of public service pay cuts two years ago.

Primary teachers were the fourth highest-paid of 35 OECD countries in 2010, with basic salaries of almost €42,000 — before the addition of allowances or pension costs — after 15 years of service.

The figure does not reflect the full cut to their pay packets in January of that year, which averaged 6.5%.

The OECD average was almost €29,500, and at second-level — where Irish teachers earn the same as in primary schools — it was €31,321 — making our second-level teachers the fifth to eighth highest-paid.

The basic teachers’ pay here ranges from 30% to 42% more than the OECD average, but the difference is slightly less compared to most EU countries.

Even after the cuts to teachers’ pay during the 2009 to 2010 school year, a 26% to 28% increase in their salaries over the preceding decade was the fourth highest in the OECD.

Starting pay for Irish teachers was 11th highest in 2010 and new entrants to the job have been further hit since then by cuts to starting salaries and the suspension of qualifications pay and other allowances this year.

Teacher unions pointed last week to a €11,400 gap in the starting pay of a new teacher this month compared with someone in the same position in 2010, who started out earning €39,195, when salary and allowances were included.

In response to the figures in the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2012 report, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said its members taught some of the biggest classes, with the average 24 pupils in a primary class being 11th highest of 34 countries. Ireland is one of very few countries where class sizes did not fall in the past decade, with budget cuts in 2009 reversing earlier staffing improvements.

The 915 hours’ annual teaching time at primary level is almost 19% higher than the OECD average and the 735 hours worked at second-level is higher than most in the OECD, where the average is 650 to 700 hours a year. Teachers’ Union of Ireland general secretary John MacGabhann said the salary figures did not take account of the pension levy, the 14% cut in new entrants’ salaries from last year, or the fact that 30% of second-level teachers did not work full-time hours.

The OECD report says there is weak evidence of the effects of different class sizes on student performance. “There is more evidence to support a positive relationship between smaller class size and aspects of teachers’ working conditions and outcomes, eg allowing for greater flexibility for innovation in the classroom, improved teacher morale, and job satisfaction.”

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