Kilkenny teachers struggling to make rent and cannot afford to get married or buy a house, TD claims

The comments were made in the Dáil recently

Darren Hassett

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Darren Hassett

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darren.hassett@kilkennypeople.ie

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"People who qualify as teachers now, having worked hard and probably having taken out a loan, will be on lower pay than those they work beside," Deputy Funchion.

Kilkenny teachers are struggling to make rent and cannot afford to get married or buy a house, a local TD has claimed as she highlighted pay inequality in the education system.

Sinn Fein TD, Kathleen Funchion, was speaking during a Dáil debate recently on teacher shortages and says teachers in her constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny are struggling to make rent.

She said: “People who qualify as teachers now, having worked hard and probably having taken out a loan, will be on lower pay than those they work beside.

“On top of that he or she is not going to be able to afford housing, either mortgages or rents, at current prices. The option of going abroad is so attractive to graduates and that is why they are doing it.

“Unless we address the issue of pay and equality we are quite simply not going to be able to address the issue of teacher shortages. It is really coming to a crisis point.

“It has implications across the sector, in both primary and post-primary schools. Schools are forced to advertise and re-advertise positions and very small numbers are applying for certain posts."

She added: “My biggest concern in all of this is the children, the students. Substitute teachers are doing their best when filling in for other teachers, but they may not have the qualifications.

“A maths teacher might be filling in for an English teacher, or vice versa. That is not adequate and it is not fair that we are asking our students to do their best in their exams but are not providing them with proper teaching.

“We must look at the pay inequality as a first step towards addressing the shortages and the inadequacy of the substitute teachers. This all has a knock-on effect on our next generation and potentially on the mental health of young people and of our teachers.

“A number of teachers in my constituency, Carlow-Kilkenny, have come to me and said that they are really struggling to make rent. Those who are planning a marriage or planning to buy a house simply cannot do it unless they are fortunate enough to have some sort of help or savings.

“The reality for most student teachers leaving third level is that they do not have savings. Newly qualified teachers are doing an excellent job and are bringing a whole new dynamic to the classroom.

“They are very aware of mindfulness and the emotional well-being of the children. That is brilliant, but they are not getting the support they need and we are going to lose them to other countries where they will get the respect and the pay they deserve.

“This is going to have a negative effect on our children and how they progress in school and ultimately whether they have a chance to go on to third level education.

“If a substitute teacher is not qualified in a particular subject they are teaching, a student in that class may be able to afford to get grinds.

“That is fine for some students, but others cannot afford to do so and they will be left behind. We are widening the educational inequality gap rather than actually trying to bridge it.

“We are creating problems for ourselves down the line and I really believe that pay inequality is the big factor in all of this. I ask the Minister to look at the report and to address the issue seriously.

“He has highlighted some improvements that have been made, but we really are at crisis point. We are going to get to the stage where kids will be going into schools and there simply will not be any teachers there to teach them.

“We cannot expect those students to go on and do exams and to progress well in their own lives if we are not going to give them the tools they require at the beginning.”

Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, said: “The recent graduate survey by the Higher Education Authority found that 73% of graduate teachers are being placed in jobs in Ireland.

“That is a substantial increase over the past few years. More young graduates are getting jobs in Ireland and the numbers emigrating are falling.

“It was me who negotiated, with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the restoration of 75% of the gap created in 2010 when entrant pay to the teaching profession was cut by the then Government.

“That was substantial progress on this issue. I recognise, as others have done, that the teachers' union continues to want to pursue this issue.

“The most recent pay agreement provided for just such a process and that started virtually immediately after the signing of the agreement. All teachers' unions are engaged in that process. That is a sign of the Government's good faith in this respect.”