Minister rules out cuts to teacher allowances


MINISTER FOR Education Ruairí Quinn yesterday appeared to reassure teachers their allowances would not be cut in any public service review when he acknowledged allowances were currently considered part of their pay.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland officials and delegates, attending their annual conference in Wexford, had warned they would interpret any move to cut teachers’ allowances as a breach of the Croke Park agreement, but yesterday Mr Quinn appeared to rule out any such move.

Asked whether allowances would be cut, Mr Quinn pointed out that allowances in education such as allowances for teachers in posts of responsibility, deputy principals and principals were considered part of their pay.

“The word ‘allowance’ has taken on a different connotation and interpretation in the wider public because there are allowances in the public sector which are additional payments for specific times and specific locations for carrying out their work.

“In the education sphere, for historical reasons, allowances are what are given to teachers who are promoted into positions of responsibility or deputy principal or principal, and those allowances are deemed to be part and parcel of pay.”

Mr Quinn pointed to the fact these allowances were also factored in when assessing teachers’ pension entitlements, unlike other allowances paid to those in the public sector such as allowances paid to members of the Defence Forces during the Troubles.

Mr Quinn made his comments before addressing the union’s congress, where he was given a polite but unenthusiastic reception from delegates who pointedly applauded union president Bernie Ruane when she challenged him on several issues.

Ms Ruane received a standing ovation during her replying address, when she said the way in which new entrants to the teaching profession were being treated was a disgrace, with their salaries being one-third less than those of their predecessors.

Earlier, Mr Quinn announced details of a new pilot scheme whereby the Department of Education will carry out an inventory of educational resources in four to six towns to assess how such resources can be best utilised for the benefit of students.

Mr Quinn said it was “common sense” to try to find out what resources were available in a town and its catchment area and suggested, for example, if one school had a high-quality science laboratory, it might be utilised by students from another school.

The department already has much of the information, but it is not stored in a very manageable format and the idea would be that it would be stored electronically and would be easily updated and managed, he said.

Mr Quinn also announced details yesterday of a new scholarship scheme which will be made available to some 350 students from disadvantaged areas over the next three years to help them with continuing in education.

In September, some 60 students attending Deis schools who hold medical cards will receive grants of €2,000 to allow them further their education. This number will expand to some 350 students in 2015, with students receiving €2,000 for each year of study.