Saturday 24 February 2018

Teachers top of class for pay as schools get even more crowded

Katherine Donnelly

CROWDED Irish primary school classes have on average four more pupils than others in the EU -- and they are set to get even bigger.

And a new report has also found that Irish teachers are among the best paid in the world.

The OECD study 'Education at a Glance' examines international trends across the primary school sector. The report confirms that even at the height of the boom, Ireland's investment in education was low.

An average class size of 24.2 in Irish schools compares with 20 in the EU and 21.4 across the developed world. This is the seventh highest of 29 countries surveyed and second highest in the EU.

And it is expected to rise next September as Education Minister Ruairi Quinn prepares to announce cuts in staffing levels in the forthcoming Budget.

However, the average salary of Irish primary teachers was the second highest in the 34-country OECD, according to the report, which cites 2008 wage levels. Second-level teachers were in the top three.

Teacher unions were quick to point out that salary levels have dropped significantly since then because of the pay cut and pension levy. However, salaries are still at the upper end of the international pay scale.

"The actual pay for new teachers in Ireland is significantly lower than the figure which appears in the report," said Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland secretary (ASTI) Pat King.

The average salary for an Irish teacher in 2008 was given as €55,916; while the current average salary of a teacher in Ireland is below €50,000.

However, the average wage of teachers across the OECD area is about €39,000


Teachers in Ireland are also above the OECD average when it comes to the amount of time spent teaching. However, teachers in other countries may have longer overall working hours because their contract ties them in to other duties.

Ireland was ranked 19th out of 31 countries in terms of investment in education -- measured as a proportion of national income (GDP).

Overall spending on education was 5.6pc of national income in 2008, an increase on the 2007 figure of 4.7pc, but still below the OECD average of 5.9pc. And the relative increase in spending during 2008 was partly due to a steep fall in Ireland's national income that year.

But the OECD report also contains plenty of positive news for Ireland, now the third highest OECD country for school completion.

Ireland also recorded the second highest growth in students going to college between 1999 and 2009.

Nearly half of 25 to 34-year-olds now have a higher education qualification, at 48pc, well above the average of 37pc.

The report also highlighted the financial benefits of education.

Irish Independent

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