RETIRING teachers have cost the Department of Education €50m more than it planned.
Department officials were taken by surprise as 500 more teachers than they had budgeted for took the early retirement plan offered this year.
The teachers were entitled to lump sums estimated at as much as €100,000 each, driving the cost of the package up by an extra €50m.
It is understood there was a surge of retirements in August on top of those who left before February in order to get a better exit deal. The exodus from the classroom this year has far exceeded department estimates.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn admitted yesterday that paying for the retirements was putting "very significant pressure" on his 2012 budget.
During the boom the extra money could have been sought from Government through a supplementary estimate, but in the current climate this is no longer an option.
The Minister has admitted that his department is now "working hard to identify measures that can offset this upward pressure".
He told an Oireachtas committee on education that his officials were now going through other departmental budgets with a fine-tooth comb to see if there was any unspent cash they could raid.
While severe education cuts have pared budgets to the bone, there may be some flexibility in areas like the school building programme.
Under the early retirement scheme about 1,350 primary and post-primary teachers bowed out before the end of February. This ensured that their pension and tax-free lump sum would be based on their 2009 salary, before pay cuts were imposed.
That figure was higher than anticipated, and the department believes that many of those planning to retire this year merely brought the date forward by several months.
However, while the final figures are not available, there was a further surge of retirements by the end of August, including many teachers who did not qualify for the deal in February.
Mr Quinn said the situation in relation to retirements and related costs would have to be monitored very closely.