Retiring teachers up by almost a fifth

School teacher retirements have jumped by nearly one-fifth this year, according to figures reported to TDs by Education Minister Joe McHugh.

Explaining part of the extra €182m he is seeking for his department’s 2018 budget, the minister said 2,311 people will have retired from schools and institutes of technology by the end of the year.

File photo.

This is almost three times the numbers for whom funding was allocated to cover the cost of lump-sum retirement payments and ongoing pension costs of newly retired education staff.

The significant difference reflects a consistent gap in recent years between the annual allocation and the Department of Education’s actual superannuation costs, which have been the subject of ongoing discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The associated €147m budget increase for which Mr McHugh sought the approval of the Oireachtas Select Education Committee is double the amount his predecessor, Richard Bruton, had to get last year.

The minister said yesterday that an extra €147m set aside for such payments in 2019 should avoid the need for another supplementary budget request at the end of next year.

However, while the difference in budgetary allocations may be accounted for by actuarial calculations, the minister’s figures show that actual retirements have increased by over 17%. Last December, Mr Bruton gave the same committee figures of 1,773 school staff and 195 institute of technology staff retiring during 2017.

This year’s rise includes an 18% jump in teachers and others who have retired from primary and second-level schools, up to 2,092.

This requires a €130m supplementary budget estimate, as the ongoing calculation problems meant the department only had an allocation to cover costs associated with 773 retirements in the schools sector.

Labour education spokeswoman and former education minister Jan O’Sullivan said she fully understands the difficulties with predicting retirements. However, she asked whether any measures could be taken in the context of teacher shortages, particularly the difficulties faced by second-level schools finding teachers for many subjects.

Are there any efforts made to hold on to those teachers, or to try and encourage them not to retire?” she said. “I know you probably can’t force them, but certainly there’s an issue now in relation to not having enough qualified teachers in certain subjects.

The number of pensioner numbers in the education sector has increased from 42,500 in 2014 to a projected figure of close to 49,000 next year.

However, despite the high number leaving the teaching profession, Mr McHugh told the committee that there were 1,342 retired teachers working in schools in the past school year.

“That’s obviously highlighting the nature and the scale of the demand and the pressures that are on the system,” he said.

He referred to the teacher supply working group, chaired by the secretary general of his department Seán Ó Foghlú, and said it is working on a number of measures.

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