‘Early school-leavers’ teachers paid less than secondary counterparts’

STAFF working with early school-leavers are being paid up to €15,000 less than second-level teachers - despite doing the same work, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) claimed yesterday.

Around 350 coordinators and resource people work in the country’s 90 Youthreach centres, which cater for people who have left school. Most are qualified and teach between 15 and 20 hours a week, but earn much less than schoolteachers.

The starting salary for a teacher with an honours degree and higher diploma is almost €37,000.

But a Youthreach resource person’s entry grade pay is just over €27,500, with a €2,760 allowance for a college degree.

A teacher with 25 years’ experience who is also a deputy principal can earn €74,000 a year, compared to a maximum €59,149 for a Youthreach coordinator.

TUI assistant general secretary Annette Dolan said the situation is made worse when their working hours are considered.

“Full-time Youthreach staff work 226 days a year and a 35-hour week, compared to 167 days and a 22-hour week for mainstream school teachers,” Ms Dolan said.

“Meeting the challenges imposed by the students requires considerable skills, effort and commitment and arguably more than is required of mainstream teaching staff,” she said.

A report by CHL consultants for the TUI shows that directors and full-time teachers in Senior Traveller Training Centres (STTCs) are paid as teachers if they hold teaching qualifications, unlike their Youthreach counterparts.

“This is inequitable and discriminatory. Since coordinators and resource persons are carrying out duties that are similar in nature and equal in value to the work being carried out by teaching staff in second-level schools and STTCs, they should be paid on the same basis,” the report said.

A Department of Education spokesman said the salaries of Youthreach coordinators and teachers will be reviewed by the public service benchmarking body.

The group will invite submissions soon and is due to report in the second half of 2007.

TUI president Paddy Healy said the work of Youthreach is not properly recognised by the department, which has allocated a 4% increase for the service’s non-pay budget this year, compared to a 9% average across the education sector.

“Funding is grossly inadequate when you consider the work being done with young people who are receiving an education they could not receive elsewhere,” he said, launching the CHL report at the Ballincollig Youthreach Centre in Co Cork.

Introduced as a pilot initiative in 1989, Youthreach provides services to almost 3,000 young people, offering programmes such as Junior and Leaving Certificate, computers, literacy and numeracy skills and FETAC courses that enable trainees to go on to college.

Jessica Lenihan, a 20-year-old mother-of-one attending Ballincollig Youthreach for three years, said she hopes to do a beautician college course after doing the Leaving Certificate Applied later this year.

“I was out of school for two years and finding it hard to get a job, but I wouldn’t have any chance without this place, and the crèche here means I don’t have to worry about finding a childcare place for my four-year-old son Jamie,” she said.

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