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Sinead Ryan: it's not too late to rescue the exam year

As the teachers themselves might say: Do the Maths.

The Croke Park deal means that teachers retiring before February 2012 get full pension benefits based on their 2009 salary, while those waiting until March will get lower pensions. Teachers' salaries, like everyone else's, are less now, so it's a no-brainer for those heading towards retirement age to go now

But let's see what else could possibly be happening bang in the middle of February? Hmm -- oh yes -- it's the Mocks, followed a scant three months later by the real thing.

The last thing students need is a whole segment of experienced teachers hitting the slippers and cocoa while they're struggling to complete their course.

Many of the teachers retiring will be department heads; they will be assistant principals, or principals themselves. Their job isn't just teaching, it's mentoring and managing teams of teachers. What will happen to them now?

We're all for new blood in our schools, but with the wise hand of experience on their shoulder. We've been paying these teachers for the last 30 or 40 years. What on earth is the problem with taking a few extra months and staggering their departures throughout the whole of 2012 so that students won't miss out by a whole load disappearing at the same time when they are in the final, crucial weeks of their Leaving Cert?

A junior infant could have worked out what was going to happen.

This cack-handed deal wouldn't have taken a first-year maths student more than a class to knock out in a fairer manner means.

It means that we'll see the long service, experienced teachers with special skills leaving just when they are most needed. The disruption will be immeasurable.

The ASTI is calling for the deal to be extended to June -- it's only three months -- to keep stability. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wasn't present at the drawing up of the original deal. He purports to be a man of change. Now would be a good time to show us if he means it.