Pay inequality is holding my life back, says Dundalk teacher David McArdle

"It's very frustrating that someone doing the exact same job as me in the next classroom could be getting paid up to €7,000 more than me.”

Tia Clarke


Tia Clarke


Pay inequality is holding my life back, says Dundalk teacher David McArdle

De La Salle teacher David McArdle

A Dundalk secondary school teacher has told how the current generation of teachers is being held back in life by salaries which are inferior to their longer-serving colleagues. 

Currently, Irish teachers employed after 2011 receive €6,000 or €7,000 less than teachers which have been employed previously.

David McArdle, 27, from Greenacres in Dundalk is a Geography and Spanish teacher at the De La Salle College. He first started working for the school after graduating from his Masters in 2013. The young teacher started out with 10 and a half hours of work per week, which he had to supplement with doing substitute teaching. David is one of the lucky ones, as has secured a full-time contract (of 22 hours per week) for the past two years.

Whilst the local teacher, who is a member of the ASTI, “adores” his job, he estimates that he's lost out on “ about €30,000” in earnings over the last five years due to pay inequality.

David explained: “I'm losing out on about €6,000 per year. And I'd estimate that since I started teaching in the last five years, I've lost out on about €30,000. It's very frustrating that someone doing the exact same job as me in the next classroom could be getting paid up to €7,000 more than me.”

The Dundalk man was advised by friends and family that teaching was a stable career to pursue, however, he says all of that changed by the time he qualified.

“When I was doing my leaving certificate, my dad gave me some career advice. He said 'Teaching is a great, stable job with a great pension' but that all changed by the time I graduated.”

The Dundalk teacher went through five years of study before getting his first job at De La Salle College in Dundalk. He received his Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and Geography, and an Honours Masters of Arts Degree in Geography from UCD in 2011 and 2012 respectively. And in 2013 David obtained his Honours Professional Diploma in Education from Trinity College, Dublin.

And when asked if his career choice has had a negative impact on his personal life David agreed wholeheartedly.

“Definitely. 100%. I would say that I am about two years behind in my own personal life and in terms of my finances too. If I was employed pre 2011 and was getting equal pay to my co-workers, I wouldn't feel so disheartened,” said David,

“And I know a lot of my peers feel the same. People who graduated with me (in 2013) didn't expect to be a burden on their parents by having to live in the family home.

“They're also finding it very hard to get a mortgage as it's taking teachers way longer than it should to get a deposit together. It all takes its toll.”

David continued: “People do complain about teachers having it easy and getting lots of holidays, but people don't realise how hard we work. My day doesn't end at 4.15 with the ring of the bell every day. I'm officially employed by the Department of Education for 22 hours per week, but I, like many teachers, have to put in work most evenings, correcting papers and doing up lesson plans.

“The way I see it is, all teachers have worked hard to ensure that they are financially independent and that they could work towards having their own house, but it's just not feasible on our wages.

“The thing is, we do love our jobs. I adore my job, but in the last few years when I've been looking to do things such as apply for a mortgage, it's really hindered me. It's very difficult.”

David also told the Dundalk Democrat that many teachers, like himself, are turning to side jobs to supplement their low wages. In the summer, David corrects Leaving Certificate and Oral exams.

Whilst the pay inequalities have caused tension in some schools around the country, David says that he doesn't resent his co-workers who are being paid more.

“The wage scales are set by the Department of Education, so it's not their fault. If anything, the longer-serving teachers in my school are very supportive of us having equal pay. I'm very fortunate with the school I work in.”

And whilst many teachers who were employed after 2011 are struggling, David, says that new graduates are in an even worse position: “It's even worse for graduates in the last 2 years. They are paying €10,000 to €20,000 for their qualification and then they're leaving college to become a teacher.

“The years that I spent upskilling, I would say it was beneficial in terms of the quality of lessons I can deliver in the classrooms, but financially, it wasn't.

“There are teachers I know who are forced to live in their family home. They really want to be on their own two feet, but they are struggling to get a house deposit together for a mortgage.”

And the general consensus is that the profession is becoming less and less attractive for new graduates.

Going forward, David thinks that the only solution to get young graduates excited about teaching again is for the Government to ensure that all teachers are granted equal pay for their hard work.

He explained: “If I wasn't on full-time hours now. I probably would have left the country. I have friends who stayed on in the UK after their training because the jobs just weren't here. And many young graduates teachers are having to upskill to get a job.

“With the low pay, I think the profession is not attractive to new graduates. Why can't the Government just listen to us and give teachers what we deserve? There is currently a shortage of teachers in Ireland and we are crying out for modern language teachers.

“I think if we want to attract young graduates into the profession, we should all be paid equally. It's just basic fairness.”

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