More than 330 retired teachers still working despite pledge to use graduates

By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent

MORE than 330 retired teachers were still working in classes this month despite pressure to ensure schools give work to thousands of unemployed teachers.

Figures from the Department of Education show that 186 primary teachers and 147 second-level teachers on the most recent payroll runs were retired. 

The data does not include those paid by vocational education committees (VECs), which manage more than one-third of the country’s second-level schools. 

Despite huge anger at teacher union conferences about the use of retired teachers and unqualified people to take classes, formal discussions have yet to take place between education partners and the department to ensure schools have proper access to qualified unemployed teachers for substitution work. 

More than 3,000 unqualified people have been working in primary classrooms since September, 400 doing so for at least 10 weeks. Another 1,200 retired primary and second-level teachers have been hired for substitution in the current school year. 

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) decided at its annual congress last month that members will no longer work with unqualified people employed to teach from next September, a policy which had not been due to take effect until 2013. 

The move prompted Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to promise measures to help ease the situation, including the possibility of a panel of qualified teachers from which schools could find substitutes locally at short notice. 

Such panels previously operated for 220 schools in 17 areas but were axed last September because the department said the 60 teachers employed on them were not taking classes every day they were paid for. 

However, unions say a supply panel system could be set up, under which payment would only issue for days worked, but still making it easier for schools to get a qualified teacher at short notice. 

“We have consistently urged schools to employ waged teachers where at all possible. What is needed is a structured system for substitution to maximise the employment of teachers without work,” an INTO spokesman said. 

A Department of Education spokesman said officials have been working to identify ways of resolving the issue and an announcement will be made soon. 

Mr Quinn’s Labour Party colleague Michael McCarthy said it is inequitable and grossly unfair that retired teachers are being re-hired when thousands of younger teaching graduates are being force to emigrate because they are unable to get work. He called on the minister to add the removal of this practice to his programme of radical reform within the school system. 

“These retirees are already in receipt of pension payments. It is frankly incredible that the last government allowed this system to evolve over time and it is now incumbent on the new administration to stamp out this wanton waste of public monies,” the Cork South West TD said.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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