Seanad Éireann - Volume 126 - 21 November, 1990
Private Business. - Teachers' Superannuation (Amendment) Bill, 1989: Second Stage.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I welcome the Minister to the House and regret she was delayed. The previous debate was of such complexity that it caused many Members to contribute to an extent beyond what we would normally have expected.
Minister for Education (Mrs. O'Rourke) Mary O'Rourke
Minister for Education (Mrs. O'Rourke): Thank you. I was under the impression that the complexity of the Order of Business caused the delay.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: The Order of Business in this House is peculiarly special in the way we deal with it.
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
 Mrs. O'Rourke: I am always glad, as I say every time I speak in the Seanad, to come to my alma matter.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Education (Mrs. O'Rourke) Mary O'Rourke
Minister for Education (Mrs. O'Rourke): The purpose of this Bill is to amend the manner in which superannuation schemes made under the Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1928 are given statutory effect.
At present, all superannuation schemes for national and secondary teachers made under that Act must be confirmed by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas. This Bill would dispense with the requirement that schemes be confirmed by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas. It would provide instead that they be laid before each House and have immediate statutory effect, unless within 21 days on which either House has sat a resolution annulling a scheme is passed, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.
This is purely an enabling mechanism. All pensions are being paid. This measure will put everything in order. There is no deep-seated philosophy or any complex thought about the matter.
Under section 2 of the Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1928 the Minister for Education may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prepare superannuation schemes in relation to any particular class or classses of teachers. The classes of teachers in respect of which superannuation schemes have been prepared and effected under the Act are national teachers and secondary techers, including teachers in comprehensive schools. I should mention for the information of the House that the superannuation terms of vocational teachers do not come within the ambit of this Act. Such matters are being addressed in the Dáil. For superannuation purposes vocational teachers are local authority officers and their superannuation terms are governed by schemes made under the Local Government (Superannuation)  Act, 1980 for which my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, has responsibility.
At present under section 5 of the Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1928, each and every superannuation scheme made under that Act, including a scheme which amends or revokes a previous scheme or schemes, must be laid before the Oireachtas and be confirmed by resolution of each House before it can come into force.
By their nature superannuation schemes are very complex. Since 1929, when the principal scheme for secondary teachers came into effect, 32 schemes have been made and effected under the Act. These schemes comprise a principal scheme and 18 amending schemes covering the superannuation provisions of secondary teachers. The national school teachers' superannuation provisions are contained in a principal scheme, made in 1934, and 12 amending schemes. The House will appreciate that, given the large number of schemes involved, any amendment to the teachers' superannuation code is a technically complex matter.
The last statutory amendments to the national and secondary teachers' superannuation schemes were made in 1972. Since then, following negotiations at the conciliation council for teachers, the superannuation benefits of teachers have been improved in line with improvements which have taken place in the public service generally. These have been implemented by my Department on an administrative basis, in advance of the making of the necessary statutory schemes. I can assure the House that teachers who have retired have been given the benefit of these improvements as they were implemented and that all teachers who are on pension have received their full entitlements.
Work is currently proceeding in my Department on the drafting of the necessary schemes which will have the effect of updating on a statutory basis the superannuation terms of both national and secondary teachers. Six schemes in all are involved, covering the superannuation  entitlements of teachers, their spouses and their children.
The procedures under this Bill will facilitate the making of these schemes and any future schemes which might be made. They will assist the Minister of the day in minimising the delay in giving statutory effect to changes in the teachers' superannuation code. In other words, when changes come and more money is given, they will receive it quicker.
These simplified procedures are in line with those obtaining for public servants generally. For example, until 1976 the superannuation arrangements for civil servants were contained in various Acts dating from 1834. Amendments to the civil service superannuation code could only be made by amending legislation. Then in 1976, the statutory basis for the code was changed to enable the Minister for Finance to make schemes amending the superannuation terms of civil servants, and having these schemes confirmed by the Oireachtas in the simplified manner now proposed for teachers. Identical statutory provisions were introduced for local authority staff, including vocational teachers under the Local Government (Superannuation) Act, 1980. In the case of the Defence Forces the requirement of a positive resolution by both Houses of the Oireachtas to confirm their pensions schemes was changed in 1975. In the wider public sector, the revised procedures are now standard.
I should emphasise that what is proposed is an enabling measure simplifying the procedure for promulgating superannuation schemes for teachers. I can assure the House that there will be no change in the statutory functions of the Minister for Finance, in that all schemes made under the Act as amended will continue to require the consent of that Minister.
I am also satisfied that there will be no diminution in control by the Oireachtas since the revised procedures provide that any scheme made under the Act must be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
 In conclusion, I should like to mention that in the course of the preparation of this Bill, the opportunity has been taken to examine the provisions of the 1928 Act. I am satisfied that the Act is operating satisfactorily in the light of current needs and that no other amendments to it are necessary.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Mrs. Jackman Mrs. Jackman
Mrs. Jackman: First, I welcome the Minister to the Chamber. Like many people involved in education on this side of the House I hope we will see more of the Minister in the future. I welcome her initiative in putting superannuation schemes for teachers on a statutory basis. A long time has passed since 1928 and the last statutory amendments were made in 1972. Superannuation has implications for pensions, early retirement, voluntary redundancy and many other things that I will address. We are all very much aware of the difficulties experienced by teachers today which have made them seek improvements in their pension schemes to allow them to retire at an earlier stage. They are anxious that improved pension provisions would be introduced through amendments to the existing superannuation schemes to allow them to retire early and also to ensure that they could obtain a pension pro rata to their contributions.
The Minister referred to amendments that will be forthcoming if the moneys are available but an early retirement scheme would give opportunities to young teachers from third level institutions. It would open up teaching to young teachers trained in modern methods, technological skills, language developments, not just in French as has been the case up to now but in German and Italian. It would give opportunities to teachers with entrepreneurial skills as the economy calls out for entrepreneurs to create employment. We, the older teachers in the system, did not have the opportunity of training in that area. All those skills are vital to ensure that we have a vibrant education system. Sadly, at the moment these well trained, highly skilled young teachers have to emigrate if they wish to  teach. I do not need to go into the number of teachers who, according to the newspapers, are finding employment in British schools. The British education system has come under severe attack over the years and the status of teachers there, unlike here, is abominably low. However, our young teachers are seeking jobs in European and British schools. It is sad that if they wish to continue teaching they have to go abroad or else enter other professions. They are a plus for other professions because teachers can use their skills not just in teaching but in other walks of life. I know this does not come under the ambit of the pensions and superannuation schemes we are discussing, but early retirement for teachers would create opportunities for employment.
Another area causing concern because of the low level of recruitment of young teachers into the system is the age profile. I am now a full-time politician and have left teaching and I am saddened at that, but looking at the age profile in our own school — I am not disclosing my age but I am certainly not a bright young thing entering the system full of idealism and what one can offer at that stage of a career — the average would tip the scales in favour of the older, more experienced teacher rather than the young teacher. When a position becomes vacant — it is rare at the moment, particularly when employing substitute teachers — it is galling to find that when the young recruit who is a highly skilled language teacher or is skilled in advanced technoloy or whatever, comes into the system he or she stays for one year and then has to leave taking their skills with them. That happens because of the lack of job prospects.
Then, as I said, they go into other areas of employment or emigrate. That is the picture that is unfolding, not just in relation to post-primary schools, but also to primary schools. Obviously, the post-primary sector includes voluntary secondary schools, comprehensive schools, community schools and VEC schools. With 1992 looming — it is mentioned always in terms of economics, industrial  development, agriculture and multinationals — teaching has to be seen in the European context where easy mobility will facilitate teachers. We need these teachers to be role models for our young people in tackling the challenges of the nineties and, indeed, the next century.
The arguments for the introduction of amendments to the pensions scheme to provide for early retirement options were reinforced by the recent experience when early retirement and voluntary redundancy were offered to some teachers and a large number of teachers looked for voluntary redundancy. That scheme was introduced by the Government to reduce the number employed in the public service. I understand that 2,300 members of the INTO, 939 ASTI members and 950 TUI members applied. Out of those members 375 INTO members were given voluntary redundancy, leaving almost 2,000 teachers who wanted to leave; voluntary redundancy was given to 138 ASTI applicants and 58 TUI members. Those remaining have to continue in a job they find increasingly difficult. That leads me to the whole concept of stress, the major factor associated with today's occupational problems among teachers.
It is interesting that teachers are perceived by the general public as having a soft job. The last time we debated education on the Adjournment the Minister agreed with others who had been teaching at primary, second and third level they were under greater stess when teaching than in politics. I still agree with that, though it is something the general public do not seem to appreciate. They would need to spend one day in an overcrowded pre-fab, or any classroom for that matter, whether at primary level or secondary level to see that attitudes to authority and to authority figures today are far different to what they were when they were at school. Unfortunately, parents think in terms of their educational experience and stress is brushed aside. It is not just an occupational problem among Irish teachers, there is growing evidence of it internationally. The studies are there to show that stress in  teachers is increasing. If one compares teaching to other professions, teaching comes out as having one of the highest levels of occupational stress. That is a fact.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Senator Jackman, I do not wish to intrude but it is now 4.30 p.m. and I have noticed from Senator Joe Costello regarding a motion which he wishes to move under Standing Order 29. I must, because of the Standing Order, call on Senator Costello to give notice of his motion before I give my ruling.
Seanad Éireann 126 Private Business. Teachers' Superannuation (Amendment) Bill, 1989: Second Stage.