Who earns what in teaching ?


THE OECD’s recent Education at a Glance survey says that Irish teachers are the fourth-highest-paid among the organisation’s 34 member countries. Only Luxembourg, Germany and Canada pay their teachers more.

That was the situation in 2009-2010. Since the publication of the report there has been some bickering over the figures. The Department of Education claims the figures reflect, at least in part, the cuts to pay and pensions implemented in 2010. The OECD figures do not include allowances paid to teachers, which can add at least 10 per cent to pay.

What’s indisputable is that the percentage of the total education budget absorbed by pay and pensions is higher in Ireland, at 71 per cent, than the OECD average, of 62 per cent.

In fairness to teachers, the OECD figures don’t take other cuts, such as the pension levy, which averages almost 8 per cent, into account because of its focus on gross salaries.

So back to the original question: what do teachers earn?


Let’s take the bulk of the teaching population first: those who entered the profession before January last year. Most newly qualified teachers at second level started on basic salaries of €33,041, or point 3 on the salary scale. (Primary teachers start on point 2.) They were also entitled to a qualification allowance of (generally) €6,154. So a newly qualified secondary teacher who started before January 2011 would have had a total gross salary of €39,195. (The starting salary at primary level would typically have been €36,890.)

From there the pay scale rises in increments of a little more than €1,000 a year. By year 15, teachers are on salaries of a little under €50,000. Then payments stay the same for a number of years, rising every five years or so. By 25 years, teachers are earning just over €59,000 in gross salary. So a teacher on this scale, after 15 years of experience, with the qualification allowance and special duties in the form of a post of responsibility for which they receive €3,769, would probably be earning more than €59,000. There would also be extra earning capacity for secondary teachers through substitution and supervision, work with the State exams and so on.

Allowances for posts of responsibility increase with the level of responsibility. An assistant principal will receive €8,520 extra, for example. (The moratorium on posts of responsibility means that, apart from some exceptional circumstances, schools have been unable to appoint new people to these since 2009.)


With established teachers protected by the Croke Park agreement, new teachers have born the brunt of the cuts to teachers’ pay. Last week the Government formalised a series of cuts for new entrants, in the process creating a two-tier teaching profession.

Under the new rules, new entrants will start at point 4 of the salary scale – €30,702 – but they will not be eligible for qualification allowances. They also have the option of being paid a pensionable allowance of €1,592 for supervision and substitution, which will bring their starting salary to €32,294. To qualify for this supervision and substitution allowance, new entrants will have to provide 12 additional hours a year over and above the existing requirement. Therefore a newly qualified teacher this year has a maximum earning capacity of €32,294 before tax, in contrast to the more than €39,000 that the class of 2010 earned in their first year.

These new teachers are second-class citizens in the new two-tier teaching profession.

It seems absurd that, in 2012, we could be facing a crisis in the form of an intergenerational struggle, with the younger teachers demanding equal pay for equal work, but at the moment it seems inevitable.

* Brendan has been teaching for 19 years. He holds a post of responsibility in his school and gets a qualification allowance

Face-to-face teaching hours22 a week

Estimated preparation hours12-16 a week

Salary€64,000 a year. He takes home €2,700 a month

Brendan says:“I’d spend two hours a day preparing for classes, and the subjects I teach would be heavy on the corrections, but I wouldn’t have those every day. When Enda Kenny said what he did about a 40-hour week for teachers we all found it amusing. If they want us to clock in and clock out, we’ll have no problem filling the time.

“I didn’t go into teaching for the money or the hours. I could have done other things. I wanted to teach, I'm glad I made that decision.

“I don’t know what’s happened in the past few years. I can’t talk to some of my friends about my job any more because it just ends up in an argument. Somewhere along the way people have decided that we don’t get value from teachers.

“There is a problem of perception. People look at teachers and think, I could do that. They see three months’ holidays without realising that most of us are in school until the end of June and back by mid August. They think massive pensions without realising that many teachers will never get to the top of this 25-year pay scale and probably won’t recoup the money they put into their pension. This isn’t giving out; it’s just fact.

“A lot of what was seen as pay-off for not earning as much as graduates in other jobs, like the relative flexibility and family-friendliness of the job, is being eroded. You wonder what will attract people to teaching now.”

* Sinéad is a primary teacher in the west. She came to teaching after working in other areas and has been teaching for six years. She receives a qualification allowance in addition to her salary

Face-to-face teaching hours25 a week

Estimated preparation hours12 a week

Salary€47,532 a year. She takes home €2,000 a month

Sinéad says:“I spent my first five years working in a Deis school” – meaning it benefits from extra funds under the Delivering Equality Of Opportunity in Schools scheme – “but last year the school lost a number of teachers, so some of us were redeployed. Now I’m in a regular suburban school.

“It’s a very draining job. I’ve worked long days, but nothing compares to how you feel at the end of a teaching day. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it’s very intense. Much more so than any other job I’ve had.

“I made a drastic mistake when I got my permanent teaching job. Like so many people, I rushed to the bank and got a mortgage. It was before the pension levy and the universal social charge, so I had more money.

“I’m down €600 a month, which makes a massive difference to me. Now, out of my €2,000 take-home pay, €1,300 goes on the mortgage. Everything else is gone. My savings are gone, I’ve no contingency funds, I’m paying my bills by credit card every month.

“Please, don’t think I’m complaining. I’m the first to stand up and say I was a fool to get that mortgage. I suppose my point is that I did everything I was supposed to. I went to college, got my postgraduate teaching qualification, I work really hard and at the moment I’m saying I did all that for what? What was the point if I’m going from month to month like this?

“I think that teachers and nurses and gardaí were once seen as stand-up members of the community. They were who your parents wanted you to be, but now it feels like we’re being attacked.”

* Jane is a newly qualified teacher who works in Dublin. She has full teaching hours covering a resource post during a maternity leave. Newly qualified teachers do not receive qualification allowances

Face-to-face teaching hours22 a week

Estimated preparation hours10-15 a week

SalaryAll new entrants will now start at point 4 on the reduced salary scale, so Jane would earn €30,702 a year, but her contract ends in April and she will not be paid during holidays. She does get some holiday pay as part of her fortnightly salary, but she has not yet received a payslip so is unsure what she will receive each month. Her gross estimated earnings this year will be about €19,000

Jane says:“I’m qualified to teach science and maths to Junior Cert level and biology to Leaving Cert level.

“As far as I know, one person out of my class of well over 100 has a full-time job in his own subject. The rest of us are doing whatever we can find. A lot of people have gone abroad. I’m incredibly lucky to have full hours while I have them.

“Now at least we know that we’re not getting allowances. They’ve boosted the pay a bit, but I’m still being paid less than my colleagues for the same work, simply because I qualified in 2012.

“I didn’t go into teaching for the money. I don’t want more money. I would just like equal money for equal work. If anything, new teachers work harder than everyone else.

“I love teaching. I’ll do this for the rest of my life, some way or another. I just wish that I was treated on an equal basis to my colleagues. Make cuts based on merit. I’d have no problem with that, but cuts based on the year you qualify? It’s crazy.”

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