Part-time teachers' Christmas dole claims to cost €2m
MORE than 800 part-time teachers were forced to sign on to the dole over Christmas despite many of them having guaranteed jobs in January due to what Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar has described as an accounting exercise.
According to figures obtained by the Sunday Independent, from December 21, 2009 to January 1, 2010, more than 840 claims for Jobseekers Allowance and Jobseekers Benefit were received from part-time teachers. This could end up costing the Department of Social and Family Affairs more than €2m.
Mr Varadkar accused the Department of Education of shifting its wage bill on to the Department of Social and Family Affairs in a cost-saving measure: "The Department of Education is saving money by sending its wage bill to welfare. This is an example of one arm of the government short-changing the other and it is not fair on the people affected," he said.
He added that the solution was to give the teachers longer-term contracts.
"The Government should give them [teachers] longer-term contracts and ensure that they are paid.
"It's not reasonable to expect them to go job-hunting on December 21st," Mr Varadkar said.
A spokesman for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) also called on the department to provide longer-term contracts for teachers.
The ASTI highlighted that only 73 per cent of Irish teaching positions are permanent, which is well below the OECD average. The situation is much worse for teachers under the age of 30, with 54 per cent of them employed on temporary contracts.
"The ASTI are very worried as a recent report by the OECD found a direct link between temporary teachers and discipline issues in classrooms. Students are more likely to act up with a new teacher. If there are discipline problems in the classroom environment learning is not taking place.
"We are calling on the department to look into this issue."
However, a spokesman for Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe rubbished Mr Varadkar's calls to provide teachers with longer-term contracts.
The spokesman said: "Is Fine Gael seriously suggesting that schools give substitute teachers full-time contracts for periods when they're not working in schools at all?
"It seems Deputy Varadkar needs to return to the policy-making drawing board.
"The department has implemented pay arrangements for part-time teachers conducive with the requirements of the Part-Time Act 2001. These arrangements were agreed with the teacher unions and managerial authorities of schools.
"Substitute teachers are employed for very short periods depending on the length of the approved absence of the teacher they're replacing.
"Teachers are paid on an hourly or daily basis for work undertaken depending on whether they're employed in primary or post-primary schools.
"The Department of Social and Family Affairs determines whether teachers employed in schools on a casual basis meet the eligibility criteria for the payment of Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance during periods that they're not employed by the managerial authorities of schools."