Monday 23 September 2019

'I am pressing the pause button on life' - Primary school teacher (29) says pay gap is driving colleagues abroad

Aoife Mullen from Ardee, Co Louth. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Aoife Mullen from Ardee, Co Louth. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Primary teacher Aoife Mullen says she is a "home bird" and didn't feel the same draw as many of her college friends to a tax-free, all-expenses-paid job abroad.

"I hung around. I have a big grá for Gaeilge and the GAA, and I would have missed that," says the 29-year-old from Dundalk, Co Louth.

However, she knows from the regular updates on Facebook that many of her cohort from Patrick's teacher training college, Drumcondra, have left and are continuing to leave.

"You see them every month, somebody new in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Scotland. I met a lot at Christmas, back from their wonderful contracts," she adds.

"At this point, I nearly would consider going for a year."

Apart from the attractive remuneration packages, Aoife says Irish teachers coming back from abroad talk about how "they feel valued and how valued Irish teachers are", while at home, she and other young teachers on lower pay for up to seven years feel "disillusioned and disheartened".

She draws a link between lower salary scales and the shortage of substitute teachers: "There is nobody here because people have emigrated and all because of pay equality."

As a 2011 graduate, the start of Aoife's career coincided with the introduction of lower scales for new entrants and she is among the worst affected.

When compared with someone who started in 2010 or before, her earnings loss over a career would amount to €100,000.

Even among those on lower scales, there are differences - improvements in recent years means lower losses for a 2017 entrant, who is set to earn €56,000 less than someone who started in 2010.

Aoife, one of 13 teachers in her school in Ardee, Co Louth, is reminded of the pay gap every day: "I am the only permanent member of staff affected by this, but I'm there doing the exact same job."

She says that while a starting salary of €36,000 "seemed great", the clampdown in opportunities for promotion since the financial crisis along with a lengthy, 27-year pay scale, means slow progress.

"My contemporaries on different career paths have more room for manoeuvre and more opportunities for progression," she says.

Aoife has moved back in with her parents to save for a mortgage."I am pressing the pause button on life," she explains. "Tipping 30, it is not the way I thought things were going to turn out.

"When I was growing up, I was thinking it was a stable job and a great job, which it is, but you struggle to get on the property ladder."

Irish Independent

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