Sunday 22 September 2019

Newly qualified teacher: 'I had to drive a three-hour round trip to give one 40-minute class on four hour per week contract'

Shane Curran, from Thurles, who teaches in New Ross. Photo: Liam Burke
Shane Curran, from Thurles, who teaches in New Ross. Photo: Liam Burke
Yvonne Hynes is in the first year of her teaching career. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

In Shane Curran's first year teaching, he spent more time driving to and from school than he did in the classroom.

A contract for four hours a week "was all I got for the year" and it meant a three-hour daily round trip from his Co Tipperary home, sometimes for only a 40-minute class.

For the 26-year-old, and others starting as second-level teachers, short hours are the norm - which means that the official starting salary of €36,000 a year, much vaunted by Education Minister Richard Bruton, is not. The €36,000 compares well with other graduate salaries, but teachers argue that they have the longest pay scale in the public service and, since 2011, one of lesser value than what senior colleagues are on.

There is an added issue at second level, where teachers are subject specialists and may spend years building up to the full 22 hours a week - and the full salary that goes with it.

Mr Curran, who did a science-teaching degree, says "of the people I went to college with I am one of the few who stayed in Ireland".

He says he was lucky to follow his first job with a maternity leave cover in Waterford and now he is covering for a career break at CBS New Ross, Co Wexford.

On a 2012 pay scale, Mr Curran is now wondering whether he, too, will have to consider a career break and a stint abroad on tax-free earnings "if I want to have any chance of paying off loans and getting a mortgage".

Another new entrant, home economics teacher Yvonne Hynes (23), is in the first year of her career, with a contract for 15 hours a week, at a secondary school in Balbriggan, Co Dublin. Filling in as a sub and resource teacher brings her up to about 20 hours, but she doesn't get paid for those extra hours over the summer.

The former president of St Angela's College, Sligo, students' union said she "loves" her job but is angry at what she sees as the "injustice" of lower pay scales.

"I am very hard-working and I like to get paid the money that I deserve.

"I hate this word vocation because if it is a vocation then there is a view that you don't really need to get paid for it."

Irish Independent

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