Statement on Teachers Allowances

Allowances for Teachers

As a former Teacher and a parent I have a particular interest in the education system. I am passionate about bringing about real reform in this sector and wish to do everything I can to ensure that educational standards are maintained and improved during this economic downturn.
Savings of 75 million euro had to be made this year in the education budget. A further 75 million euro savings will have to be found next year. In a bid to assist with this process, I have been endeavouring to find out where the annual budget of almost 9 billion euros is spent. 80% of the entire budget goes on pay which is protected under the Croke Park agreement. During the course of these queries it has emerged that over 500 million euro is paid each year in allowances. I am not opposed to the payment of allowances and feel particularly strong about the need for Qualification Allowances to ensure the highest standards of Teachers in our system similar to the Finnish Education model where all Teachers must have a Master’s degree as a minimum. There are numerous allowances that are clearly inadequate such as that of Principal and Deputy Principal – As a former School principal I am well aware of the amount of time involved that is not reflected in any allowance. However 3 billion euro in allowances since 2006 is an enormous figure and I believe that these allowances must be reviewed in light of the current budgetary challenges faced by the state. Many of the allowances are necessary and represent exceptional value for the tax payer noting the extraordinary commitment, dedication and extra time given by many teachers. Some however are excessive, unnecessary and do not represent value for money.
The recent budget introduced a reduction in the Pupil Teacher ratio in rural schools of less than 5 teachers. This move has been fiercely resisted by teachers across the country. So far the Unions who are happy to front these protests have failed to offer any solution to the budgetary challenges other than resistance to any changes proposed. I hope that my intervention in this debate will bring a renewed focus to all stakeholders in the education system to face up to reality and start addressing the issue collectively well ahead of next year’s budget. Put in context, the supervision allowance for primary schools is 51 million euro while the reductions in the PTR in small schools will save 14 million euro this year. This change will also result in 100 less graduates securing employment next year. If 14 millon euro (2.8%) could be saved from the overall amount of 500 million euros in allowances the pupil teacher ratio would be protected and 100 new jobs created in our schools next year.
Teachers are natural leaders in their classroom, schools and the wider community. I believe that they will work with this Government to ensure that future budgetary reductions which are an absolute necessity will have least impact on the teaching and learning in the classrooms.
In conclusion, I do not propose to suggest what allowances should remain and what should go. I welcome any suggestions for cost savings that will minimise the impact on students.
Jim

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