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Teachers earn up to €55,000 in extra allowances

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 25, 2012

HARRY McGEE and SEÁN FLYNN

COMMITTEE INQUIRY: A TEACHER was paid €55,439 in allowance payments in 2011, according to new details provided by the Department of Education to the Committee of Public Accounts.

In correspondence with the committee, the department also explained how a principal teacher of a large school – with a range of qualifications up to PhD level – will earn €53,186 in allowances. This represents 47 per cent of his/her €112,545 salary.

But the department also provided other examples of younger, less-qualified teachers where allowances represent 15 per cent of their salary.

The department’s secretary general, Seán Ó Foghlú, told a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts yesterday that allowances paid to teachers amounted to €616 million last year, or 16 per cent of the overall teacher pay bill of €3.83 billion.

The committee, chaired by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, is examining the basis and rationale behind all 1,100 allowances in the public service and had invited in Mr Ó Foghlú and his officials as part of its investigation.

Outlining the historical basis behind the allowances, Mr Ó Foghlú said a number dated back to the 1920s. He said the allowances recognising qualifications and posts of responsibility (including the jobs of principal and deputy principal) date back to 1920.

He said the allowances for teaching in the Gaeltacht and teaching through Irish were introduced shortly after Independence in 1922, to encourage teachers in the fledgling State to teach in the Gaeltachts and through Irish.

Pat Burke, assistant secretary at the Department of Education, said the circumstances justifying the payment of the Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking grants had now changed.

Mr Ó Foghlú said the 35-year award was a long-service increment analogous to allowances in other areas of the public sector.

The newest of the allowances, the supervision and substitution allowance, was introduced only 10 years ago after a protracted dispute involving teachers at second level.

This allowance provides a yearly sum of €1,592 to teachers in return for being available to supervise classes when colleagues are absent and also to supervise breaks during the day.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy expressed criticism of this allowance. “If they were gone, it would mean a potential saving of over €100 million per annum,” he said.

More than 80 allowances in education – including the Gaeltacht ones, which cost €16 million per year – are being examined with a view to abolishing them.

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