Extra €80m needed as number of projected teacher retirements double

Richard Bruton rejects claims that teachers are ‘running out of the profession’

Thomas Byrne, Fianna Fáil TD and education spokesman, said teacher retirement figures show “people are literally running out of the profession”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thomas Byrne, Fianna Fáil TD and education spokesman, said teacher retirement figures show “people are literally running out of the profession”. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Department of Education needs an extra €80 million to pay for a doubling in the number of projected retirements from teaching and other education sectors.

A total of more than 1,700 individuals are set to retire this year, compared to 823 that were originally projected.

Officials at the department said the initial projections this year had been “conservatively estimated”.

Of this year’s projected retirees, about 1,114 are teaching staff in primary schools (670) and secondary schools (444).

These numbers are up slightly compared to 2016 (1,016 teaching staff retirements), but down on on 2015 (1,168 retirements).

Teachers are entitled to retire from 55 years of age onwards and many are concentrated towards the end of August.

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne TD  said  it looked like “people are literally running out of the profession” and expressed concern at the implications for teacher shortages in the classroom.

However, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said there had been no surge in retirements this year and that the numbers were running at a level similar to last year.

Mr Bruton said that while there were concerns over “pinch points” in the supply of teachers for some key subjects, the number of new teachers graduating each year – about 3,000 – was running well in excess of retirement numbers.

The Minister was speaking at the Oireachtas education committee’s hearing into his request for a total supplementary budget of at least €124 million.

Teacher shortages

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Martin TD expressed concern over the impact of retirements on teacher shortages.

She said many schools in urban areas were “shedding” young teachers due to high rents and lack of access to permanent, full-time teaching positions.

Labour TD and former minister for education Jan O’Sullivan also voiced concern at the impact of failing to tackle the two-tier pay gap.

Mr Bruton said these issues were being addressed as part of the talks over the public sector pay deal.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the department said there were challenges with accurately forecasting the number of retirements in the education sector, due to a range of factors including that most retirements occur at the end of August rather than being spread evenly throughout the year.

In addition, only a small proportion – about 5 per cent – retire at the mandatory age of retirement.

Briefing material prepared for Dáil deputies also indicates that industrial action involving the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland may have resulted in a “potential pent-up demand” following suspension of their industrial action.

Mr Bruton told the committee that the remainder of his department’s supplementary budget request related to shortfalls (€37 million) linked to pension scheme contributions which are paid over to the Department of Public Expenditure.

Included in this figure is a delay in the receipt of some EU funds (€17 million) which are now due to be received next year instead of this year.

A further €4 million was required for increased rental accommodation costs and €2 million for grants to primary and post-primary bodies.