The facts that challenge myths about teachers, the public sector and trade unions.

Myths about teachers and schools


Myth:
Irish teachers are paid more, and work less than teachers elsewhere

Facts:
The most recent Education at a Glace report shows Irish teachers are far from the highest paid among OECD countries. In addition, the figures used in this report do not take into account pay cuts for new teachers or the public service  pension levy.  A key point to emphasise is that a third of teachers are temporary and up to a third are not working full hours. Young teachers can expect to spend five to eight years (often much longer) on part-time hours.

When compared to those with similar education levels in Ireland, the latest Education at a Glance study reports that teachers earn 20% less than their counterparts. 

In relation to working hours, there is no evidence to support statements that Irish teachers work less. In fact, Irish second-level teachers spend more time teaching in the classroom than the OECD average. This does not include the increasing amount of work teachers carry out outside the classroom including administrative and planning duties, meeting parents, and meeting other professionals such as education welfare officers.


In relation to working hours, there is no evidence to support statements that Irish teachers work less. In fact, Irish second-level teachers spend more time teaching in the classroom than the OECD average. This does not include the increasing amount of work teachers carry out outside the classroom including administrative and planning duties, meeting parents, and meeting other professionals such as education welfare officers.


Myth:
Teachers are not paying as much as others towards recovery.

Facts:
While student numbers have risen by almost 5% at second level since 2009, the number of teachers in schools has been reduced. Teachers, like all public servants, are doing far more for far less.

Significant savings in the education spend have come about because:

Teachers are being paid less
Teachers have taken an average pay cut of 14% since 2009, while new entrants have had a further substantial.
The reduction of 6,000 posts of responsibility at primary and second level have a consequential saving in the pay bill of €36 million annually.

Teachers are giving more
Teachers complied fully with the terms of the Croke Park Agreement, including providing 33 additional hours each per year. The first report of the Implementation Body put the aggregate value of these hours at €43 million annually.

Teachers are losing jobs
An increase in the pupil–teacher ratio, the withdrawal of support teacher roles, and the withdrawal of the separate guidance allocation means that well over 1,500 teaching jobs have been lost since 2009.


Myth:
Teachers have guaranteed job security

Facts:

More than one-quarter of second-level teachers in Ireland are in temporary employment. Some 27% of teachers are non-permanent, according to OECD figures. Far from a ‘job for life’, these teachers have no guarantee that their job will even exist in the next school year.

The changes to guidance allocation announced in Budget 2012 have had the same effect on schools as the pupil–teacher ratio increase of 2009, i.e., each school have lost between one and two teachers. This, together with the increase in pupil–teacher ratio in fee-paying schools and the merging and redistribution of support post allocations, means that many teachers have found themselves out of work over the last number of years.

Only 6% of PDE students surveyed by the ASTI in 2010 believed that they would be able to find a full-time teaching post in Ireland following graduation. Only half believed that they would have a permanent teaching post in five years.

Myth:
Permanent teachers cannot lose their jobs

Facts:

There are procedures in place under Section 24 of the Education Act to facilitate schools in dealing with issues of professional competence and conduct. These procedures allow school management to take a number of disciplinary actions against teachers, up to and including suspension or dismissal. Where concerns are raised regarding a teacher’s professional competence or conduct, these disciplinary procedures set out the informal and formal steps that must be taken by management to address the concerns.

In the case of professional competence, the procedures allow for internal and external review of a teacher’s competence and ability to meet required professional standards. In the case of matters of professional conduct, a teacher may be given verbal or written warning in advance of disciplinary action.
Disciplinary action in both cases can include the deferral of an increment, the withdrawal of an increment or increments, suspension with or without pay, or dismissal.

In cases of gross misconduct or a threat to the health and safety of students or school staff, depending on the gravity of the alleged offence, a teacher may be dismissed without recourse to the previous stages of the procedures.

Myth:
Teachers and schools are not accountable

Facts:

All second-level schools are subject to four different methods of inspection: whole school inspection (WSE); subject inspection; whole school inspection – management, leadership and learning (WSE-MLL); and, incidental or unannounced inspections.

The majority of inspections involve a team of inspectors visiting the school, inspecting teachers in the classroom, evaluating school planning, examining teachers’ teaching and learning plans, and conducting interviews with teachers. WSE-MLL inspections involve surveying parents and students.

The resulting inspection reports are published on the internet and are available to any member of the public. Since 2006, nearly 5,000 primary and second-level school inspection reports have been published on the Department of Education and Skills website.

Additionally, teachers are subject to the Teaching Council Code of Professional Conduct.

Myths about the public service


Myth:
The public service is not helping Ireland’s economic recovery

Facts:

Last year public servants contributed over €1 billion in savings to the Irish Exchequer. The second year of the Croke Park Agreement achieved €650m in public pay bill savings, and administrative efficiency savings worth €370m, according to the second annual report of The Implementation Body for the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014.

The report found that public servants are making significant contributions to reducing Exchequer outgoings, both financially and through other efficiencies:

  • pay bill savings of €650m were achieved across the public service between April 2011 and March 2012, driven by the reduction in staff numbers and in pay;
  • the first two years of the Croke Park Agreement have yielded €810m in sustainable pay bill savings;
  • the Exchequer pay bill is expected to make total savings of €3.3bn by 2015 – this figure takes account of expected increases in public service pension costs; and,
  • administrative efficiency savings totaling €370m were reported for the review period, which means a total of €678m in non-pay savings in the first two years of the Agreement.


The Implementation Body is chaired independently and all aspects of its annual report were externally verified.

Myth:
The public service is bloated and costly

Facts:

A report entitled Public Sector Trends 2011, published by the Institute of Public Administration in November 2011, reviews the cost and size of the public sector in Ireland over the past few years. It states:

  • numbers employed in the public sector in Ireland, as a percentage of total employment, are not excessive by European standards;
  • there has been a significant drop in the numbers employed in both the public sector and public service from 2008, with a drop of just under 6% in each case. Numbers employed in the public sector and public service in 2011 are just back below 2006 levels of employment; and,
  • as numbers are reduced further to meet fiscal and economic targets, there is a need to closely examine and plan for the impact of retaining vital skills, knowledge and capacity in the public service.


In relation to the cost of the public sector, the report looks at public spending as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product). The report states:

  • historically Ireland is shown as having a very small share of public spending compared to most EU countries; and,
  • the particularly large jump [in public spending as a percentage of GDP] from 2009 to 2012 is largely explained by the impact on Government expenditure of specific Government support to banks during the financial crisis, in the form of capital injections.