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Other Questions - Teachers’ Remuneration

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

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 13.  Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  if the cap on academic qualifications allowances introduced in December’s budget is contrary to his stated commitment to developing a knowledge-based society that is an important prerequisite which is needed to stimulate employment and economic growth. [19508/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under budget 2012, teachers appointed before 5 December 2011 are not paid an allowance where they acquire further qualifications after that date. Allowances for teachers first appointed between 5 December 2011 and 31 January 2012 are payable up to a maximum of €4,226, which was the rate applicable to the honours primary degree allowance. This measure is concerned with the sustainability of the public service pay bill and, in particular, the need to find payroll savings in the education Vote. In setting the new maximum at the rate applicable to the honours primary degree allowance, cognisance was taken of the level of qualification required by the Teaching Council. The previous arrangements whereby a teacher could elect to acquire further qualifications post-entry to the profession and secure a pensionable pay increase simply were not sustainable and as such, I do not accept the measure has any significant implication for the development of a knowledge-based economy.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Is the precise number known? Figures available to me indicate that almost half of the 9,000 postgraduate students in the State have their fees paid or receive a minimum maintenance grant. I have received information that cuts to postgraduate courses will prevent some of the country’s brightest and most capable young people from accessing higher education. This does not simply pertain to teachers because for some masters degree courses fees of approximately €6,000 are charged. Again, those who are from low or middle income family backgrounds are the students who will have difficulty in moving on in their education. One is told continually that fully-qualified people are needed to take up the opportunities afforded by the new knowledge economy and so on. While, on the one hand, one is told there is a crisis in this regard, on the other, supports are not being given to people to enable them to move on in their education. Some of the people who attended today’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education to discuss the same matter also made the worrying point that while the State is saying one thing, it is doing another. While such education costs a lot of money, rather than bringing in people from abroad to fill the skills void and take up many of the available jobs, it would be cheaper in the long run.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Government was obliged to make decisions across the budgetary framework for reasons that are all too evident to everyone present in the Chamber. Ireland is highly fortunate in that, unlike our nearest neighbours and other European Union countries, gaining entry to any of its five primary school teacher colleges necessitates being in the top 15% of the leaving certificate honours and points outcomes. As an incredibly high level of achievement is required, very bright people are entering the colleges and as the phenomenon dates back over many decades, I do not suggest for one moment this is due to this Administration or its predecessor. Teaching is well regarded in Ireland, which is a major advantage. This is not the case in other countries because they are not as well paid, not as well regarded and do not have what one might call the same professional or social status.

Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act will be activated later this year on the enactment of the Education (Amendment) Bill 2012 which is going through the House. This will enable the [90]Teaching Council to ensure that only teachers who are registered with it will be paid a State salary. Such teachers will be obliged to re-register each year and will have to provide proof of continual professional development. This will ensure that the cohort of teachers already in place will be upskilled. To a certain extent, this particular provision will no longer be necessary. However, we will be considering how to ensure that graduates who obtain jobs in primary schools will pursue other postgraduate qualifications. Continuing professional development is a requirement among all the professions, including those which relate to doctors and other medical personnel, lawyers, architects, etc. Teachers are going to be obliged to pursue such development as well.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe When will the impact of what is proposed be felt? Will it be next September or sometime thereafter? There have already been reports from certain colleges with regard to courses being dropped, etc. Perhaps we could return to this matter early next year and the Minister could make a statement in the House in respect of the effect of what is proposed. If that effect is negative in nature, will we be in a position to re-examine what is involved? We have been given mixed messages regarding the knowledge-based economy. It is those who cannot afford to pay — those on the lowest incomes, etc. — who are going to suffer most in respect of this matter.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I am aware of the fears that have been expressed but it is far too early to state whether a trend is emerging. However, we will keep the matter under review. If those fears are confirmed, then we will be obliged to take action to reverse the position. It would not be in anyone’s interest, for the reasons the Deputy expressed and which I support, for a deterioration in quality to occur.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I completely agree with the Minister about the need to protect educational standards and that we must continue to invest in teachers. All Members would have received correspondence from and met people of different ages who expect to qualify as teachers shortly. As a result of changing careers, etc., many of these individuals already have substantial mortgage commitments and student loans and they are very concerned with regard to the rate of pay that will apply at the entry level to teaching. This issue requires further consideration in order that we might ensure that we continue to protect the teaching profession. We must also ensure that the entry requirements relating to training colleges and universities are of the highest standard.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I share that view. We will keep the matter under consideration.

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