Education in Ireland is compulsory from ages 5-16, with an additional mandatory 3 years up to the age of 18. The Irish Government most recent proposals include a termination of payments for the operation of the supervision and substitution scheme in schools (worth about €1,700). Those teachers and educational staff earning more than €65,000 would face a 5.5 per cent pay cut in late 2013.
Since the onset of the financial crisis
At both primary and post-primary levels, the pupil-teacher ratio increased, which resulted in increased class sizes. Schools are also taking unprecedented steps such as reducing or dropping programme and subject options, withdrawing higher-level options, combining higher and ordinary level class groups for some subjects, combining class groups from different years in some subjects, imposing quotas on the number of students allowed to study specific subjects, reducing the duration or number of class periods, e.g. reducing the tuition time allocated to subjects, and reducing tutorial care classes.
Teachers’ salaries have remained the same since December 2009 due to a national agreement; however, teachers’ salaries were reduced by approximately 14 per cent prior to the agreement. Salary scales for all new public servants, including teachers, have been reduced by 10 per cent since January 2011. All new teachers must start on the first point of the salary scale, which means their salary reduction has been about 13-14 per cent in total. No allowances (e.g. supervision, qualifications) have been paid to new beneficiaries since 1 February 2012.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, and the Teachers Union of Ireland have continued to negotiate with the Department of Education and Skills and Government to advocate against further erosion of teachers’ working conditions. The three teacher unions together commissioned an actuarial report on pensions to show that, under pension arrangements that took effect in 2012, teachers are paying more into their pension fund, for a longer period of time and have fewer benefits.
The education budget in Ireland for 2012 was reduced by 1.7 per cent in comparison to 2011. The Government further reduced the education budget by 2.7 per cent in early 2013. The crisis has most affected younger people in Ireland: youth unemployment is now over 30 per cent.