Tuesday 27 September 2016

'An old boys and girls network' - Retired teachers 'hogging' posts from graduates

Outrage as 560 vacancies filled by pensioners

Published 17/07/2016 | 02:30

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The number of retired teachers 'hogging' jobs desperately needed by newly qualified graduates continues to rise, provoking fury among those who have recently left college.

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As another school year ends, out-of-work and underemployed younger teachers are increasingly frustrated that so many of their colleagues are refusing to free up desperately needed jobs.

Latest figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show 560 retired teachers were employed during the 2014/2015 school year.

This comprised 320 retired primary teachers and 240 retired secondary teachers in the community and comprehensive sector. This was up on the previous year, when 537 retired teachers were allowed fill existing teacher vacancies.

Figures show 302 were in the primary sector and 235 were second-level teachers.

In the latest school year, up to the end of November 2015, a total of 3,270 teaching days were worked by 368 retired teachers.

Of these, 234 were primary educators, with 134 given jobs in the second-level system.

Many of these retirees have long service and are on generous public service pensions.

There are also claims that "an old boys and girls network'' is in operation in some schools, allowing retired members of staff to top up their pensions by getting regular work, such as providing cover for maternity leave.

The anger among newly qualified teachers is fuelled further by the 'two-tier' pay system in the profession.

This continues to discriminate against those currently starting out in their careers.

The Department of Education has issued various circulars and information notes over the past few years, requesting that unemployed teachers be prioritised in the selection process.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) has again stressed that recently qualified graduates should always be given preference when substitution opportunities arise.

However, some school managements insist there are occasions when it can be difficult to source a registered teacher of a particular subject at short notice.

The person selected usually knows the principal or other members of the school management on a personal basis. Difficulty in finding a suitable candidate to fill a particular slot at short notice may explain the hiring of retirees in some cases, according to a TUI spokesman.

He said an ongoing priority for the union is the precarious employment status and "income poverty" of new and recent entrants. In one circular issued by the Department of Education, it outlines how school principals must retain a list of unemployed registered teachers, who are available for substitute work at short notice. In "exceptional occasions" when they have had to employ a retired teacher, this must be reported to the board of management, it states.

Gemma Tuffy of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) says it currently has hundreds of members who are working on a casual basis, while desperately seeking a secure job.

"Many of these are young and recently qualified, and have spent five to six years training to become teachers, attaining the required bachelors and masters degrees," she said. "They are committed to teaching as a career, but are struggling to make ends meet."

Sunday Independent

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