BETRAYED BY OUR TEACHERS; More Than 1,000 Will Retire in the Middle of the New Year - Costing Us [Euro]110m and Abandoning the 100,000 Students Sitting Their Exams; Parents Fear Pupils' Grades Will Suffer in Mid-Term Exodus

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Byline: Elaine Loughlin

AROUND 100,000 pupils facing crucial exams are to be left in the lurch as teachers rush to cash in on a highly lucrative retirement and pension deal. The Government is to pay [euro]110million to around 1,000 teachers so they can retire in the middle of the school term next year.

On average, the outgoing staff will receive a lump sum of [euro]97,000, and annual pensions of more than [euro]30,000.

But parents are extremely concerned that the retirements will have a 'devastating impact', especially on the 100,000 students preparing to sit Leaving and Junior Certificates this summer.

Under the terms of the Croke Park Agreement - which was left untouched by this week's Budget - teachers who retire before the end of February 2012 will receive a lump sum and pension based on their 2009 'pre-cut' salary. Those who retire after this date will receive a reduced pension.

But parents are horrified. Tommy Walshe of the National Parents Council (Secondary), said: 'If a teacher walks out in February when the mocks are coming up, then it will be devastating for students.' The Department of Education yesterday confirmed that 1,136 teachers will leave before the February deadline.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has admitted that the Government did not tackle the Croke Park issue in the Budget because they are afraid of the reaction from trade unions.

He said that such a move would have 'invited trouble' as it would have been seen as an attack on the agreement, which offers workers in the public service protection from any job and pension cuts.

The figure of 1,136 teachers does not include VEC schools, which it is estimated will also lose up to 100 teachers before the February cut-off date.

Some 315 secondary school teachers will retire in February alone, just as students prepare to sit mock exams, and deadlines for completion of projects for practical subjects approach.

Unions had estimated that around 800 teachers would avail of the retirement benefits, but the expected uptake has been exceeded and will put pressure on schools to fill the posts in the middle of the academic year.

Mr Walshe, president of the National Parents Council (Secondary), said the students' grades could suffer.

He said: 'It is very hard to see what will happen when February comes. It is something that we are very worried about. If a teacher walks out in February when the mocks are coming up, then it will be devastating for students.' He said new teachers coming in would have to adjust to classes and that it would take time to know students and their abilities. …