Four out of five primary school teachers who retired last year had not reached the official retirement age.
Figures published by the Department of Education show 539 out of 654 teachers at primary school level who retired during 2015 did so on a voluntary basis. The annual cost of paying pensions to retired teaching staff rose by over €30m last year to €739m.
A total of 392 teachers who retired were aged under 60 — around 60% of all retirees.
Only 27 had reached the compulsory retirement age, while 42 were forced to retire on medical grounds. Some 46 other teachers were allowed to take “cost-neutral early retirement” on reduced pensions.
The figures also reveal that more than half of all teachers at primary school level last year who retired were either principals or deputy principals.
Under the rules, any teacher who began employment before April 1, 2004, can voluntarily retire from 60 years of age or from 55 if they have 35 years service. Otherwise, they must retire at the end of the school year in which they reach 65 years.
Teachers aged from 50 to 60 years may also retire on reduced pension benefits.
New entrants to teaching who commenced work after April 2004 can only voluntarily retire after 65 years.
In response to a recent parliamentary question, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said approximately 7,000 teachers had retired in the past five years.
They received €691m in lump sum gratuity payments.
“Teachers and special needs assistant vacancies that arise in schools due to retirements or otherwise are one of the few areas of the public service that have been exempted from the Government’s moratorium on recruitment,” said Mr Bruton.
“Resultant vacancies continue to be filled in the normal way.”
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