Wednesday 16 October 2019

Teachers' watchdog pushed for 20pc hike to outgoing boss's salary

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

THE teaching standards watchdog voted for a major salary hike for its outgoing boss, which would have boosted her pension by tens of thousands of euro.

The Irish Independent has learnt that the board of the Teaching Council sought a 20pc pay rise for its €105,000-a-year director Aine Lawlor, who retired a fortnight ago.

If the move had been successful, Ms Lawlor would also have seen her retirement lump sum increased by €33,000 and her pension boosted by more than €10,000 a year.

The proposal was instigated last year but remained on the table until September, just weeks before Ms Lawlor retired.

However, it was shot down by the Department of Education, which refused to sanction such a pay hike in the current economic climate.

The council recently became embroiled in controversy over its failure to gather information on the number of unqualified maths teachers in second-level schools. It emerged the council did not start a survey on maths teacher qualifications until five months after it had been requested by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.

The delay occurred despite growing concern about maths standards in secondary schools following another poor set of Leaving Certificate results.

Last night, the council denied it had sought a pay rise specifically for Ms Lawlor.

It said the request was made as the council felt the level of responsibility attached to the director's post warranted a pay grade on a par with chief executive officers of other similar organisations.

The Irish Independent has learnt that in June 2010, the council voted 24 to four, with one abstention, in favour of a regrading.

After the board decision, the council asked the department to approve the pay rise.

The council continued to press the issue for over a year, while at the same time teachers, who help fund the council through €90-a-year registration fees, were suffering salary cuts.

The department finally rejected the request in September and informed the council in October.

Ms Lawlor, a former primary school principal, retired on November 30 after seven years as director of the council. Had the department approved the 20pc pay rise, Ms Lawlor's annual salary would have increased to almost €130,000.

Ms Lawlor's retirement lump sum would have jumped from about €157,000 to €190,000, while her annual pension would have risen from almost €53,000 to €63,500.

The increase would have added €210,000 to Ms Lawlor's pension pot over the next 20 years.

The pension arrangements for public servants provide for a lump sum of one-and-a-half time's salary and a pension of half pay based on final salary.

Last night, the council gave a number of reasons as to why the regrading had been sought at the time.

When the council was set up, an internal committee had recommended that the job should be level with the assistant secretary grade in the civil service, currently starting at €127,796 a year.


The committee warned that, given the expertise required of the director, it would be difficult to attract candidates if the salary was below that of an assistant secretary.

The council said that the job was funded by the department on contract basis for two years and when the more permanent appointment was made, there was no review of the grade.

Initially, the position was aligned to that of chief executive of An Bord Altranais, then at Principal Officer level but subsequently upgraded to assistant secretary.

"Given that fact, and the fact that the position is now funded by council as a self-funding body, it was appropriate that the grade should be reviewed," the spokesperson said.

The council also argued that appointments to similar jobs in the education area, subsequent to Ms Lawlor taking up her role, were at a significantly higher level, equivalent to assistant secretary.

Irish Independent

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