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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Conditions of service for teachers working in early childhood and school education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.2Conditions of service for teachers working in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Conditions of Service for Educators and Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Planning Policy

Early Childhood Education and Care

DCEDIY is responsible for workforce planning for early learning and care (ELC), and works in collaboration with the Department of Education. However, the State does not employ early years educators or SAC practitioners, and does not set wage levels or determine working conditions for staff.

Providers of ELC services are autonomous in terms of staffing and each one determines its own recruitment procedures along with terms and conditions for their workforce, though they are required to comply with sector-specific legislation on minimum rates of pay and with regulations on minimum adult-child ratios and minimum qualification requirements. 

In September 2022, Employment Regulation Orders for the ELC and SAC sector came into force for the first time. These prescribe minimum rates of pay for early years educators and SAC practitioners, with higher minimum rates of pay prescribed for lead educators and managers, and for those lead educators and managers who have relevant qualifications at level 7 or higher on the NFQ.

Nurturing Skills, the Workforce Plan for ELC and SAC 2022 to 2028, was published in December 2021. Actions in Nurturing Skills to develop career pathways and promote careers in the sector will complement efforts to improve pay and conditions of employment, to make the sector more attractive to potential workers.

A range of policies have been developed to promote the development of the ELC and SAC workforce in Ireland. The mix of policies reflects the fact that the providers of ELC and SAC are private (with a mix of privately owned and community-based providers) and the State is therefore not the employer. Many of the measures adopted have therefore involved conditions attached to funding contracts and incentive payments, in addition to the regulatory requirements that all ELC and SAC services must meet.

School Education

It is the Department of Education and Skills, taking account of government policy which exercises control over the primary teacher supply from state funded Colleges of Education. Its statistics section and its schools division combine to monitor the general situation in relation to demographic trends and pupil-teacher ratio policies. This overview is most directly operated in relation to primary teaching. The Department of Education and Skills also controls the numbers which colleges of education are entitled to recruit each year including some of the overall numbers of specialist student teachers e.g. Home Economics, which are admitted to teacher education programmes each year.

A tripartite committee monitors numbers for the majority of post-primary teachers who are following the consecutive course. It comprises representatives of the DES, the higher education authority (HEA) and the universities. Its quota of 1,000 students has operated now for a number of years. It does not operate on an individual subject basis and there have been concerns that as a planning mechanism, it has not been sufficiently precise. The Teaching Council has a statutory remit to advise the Minister on teacher supply matters. The Council, working in conjunction with the DES, has recently initiated the process of developing such advice.

Entry to the Profession

Early Childhood Education and Care

The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 place a number of requirements on service providers in relation to the recruitment of Early Years Educators and SAC Practitioners. These minimum entry requirements include Garda (police) vetting and references. In relation to ELC, a member of staff who works directly with children must hold at least a Level 5 major award in Early Childhood Care and Education on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), or a qualification deemed equivalent.

Nurturing Skills: the Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028, commits to examine the development of a range of entry routes into the sector (including apprenticeships or other work-based learning, and access programmes in further and higher education), along with the scope for targeting potential Educators / Practitioners from groups that are less well represented in the workforce.

School Education

The Irish school system is predominantly a state-supported system whereby the state supports private school managements in the provision and maintenance of schools and pays the salaries of recognised teachers. The state lays out regulations for the processing of staff appointments, but it is the management board of the school that makes the appointment, following due process. Normally, posts are advertised on one of a number of teacher recruitment websites and applicants apply directly. School Management Boards are free to short-list from the number of applicants and to conduct interviews for selection. Thus, the process is one of ‘open recruitment'.


In primary schools, the board of management function is exercised through a selection board, which comprises the Chairperson of the board of management, the principal teacher and an assessor, independent of the board of management, to be appointed by the Patron after consultation with the Chairperson. At least one member of the selection board must be female and one must be male.


Before a person can commence teaching in a recognised school, or receive salary from state funds, he or she must be registered with the Teaching Council. For final year students, the process commences before a student completes his or her final year exams. Newly qualified primary teachers are registered with conditions by the Teaching Council. Upon registration with the Teaching Council, post-qualification professional practice conditions are generally applied to primary and post-primary NQTs.


The National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT) is a State-funded support service that co-ordinates the provision of a multi-faceted induction programme for teachers. Full-time team members (Regional Development Officers) are supported in their work by a team of associates.


The Induction Workshop Programme is a flexible learning programme, funded by the DES and designed to meet the particular professional learning needs of NQTs. The programme, which is coordinated by the NIPT, builds on other learning that took place during initial teacher education. It can be tailored by an NQT depending on his/her particular circumstances. NQTs whose route to full registration is probation (primary) or post-qualification employment (post-primary), are required to engage in an overall minimum of 20 hours of professional learning, and may combine school-based professional learning activities with off-site workshops to meet that requirement.


Droichead is a central feature of a new model of induction and probation initially piloted by the Teaching Council in a number of schools between 2013 and 2015.  A team of fellow professionals (Professional Support Team-PST) provide both support and judge quality (signing off on NQTs reaching the standards laid down by the Council).  Inspectors continue to evaluate the work of NQTs in non-pilot primary schools on behalf of the Council.


Droichead is an integrated professional induction framework that includes both school-based induction and additional professional learning activities to meet the needs of teachers as they begin their career. Droichead is applicable in primary and post-primary schools and in Centres for Education in which a post-primary curricular subject(s) is being taught, where such schools or centres have been registered by the National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT) as participants in the Droichead process.


The main objective of the Droichead process is to support the professional learning of NQTs during the induction phase, thus laying the foundations for subsequent professional growth and learning for the next phase of their career. There are two key strands of the Droichead process as an integrated induction framework for the NQT. The first strand is a school-based induction one (Strand A), through which the NQT is supported by experienced colleagues. The second strand is made up of additional professional learning activities (Strand B), which involves attendance at NQT cluster meetings in local education centres, and one other professional learning activity related to the needs of the NQT.


A school participating in Droichead offers the Droichead professional induction model which has been developed by the Council. NQTs in such schools undergo a period of supported professional practice called Droichead, as defined above. Post-qualification employment (PQE) is a condition of registration which applies to all newly registered post-primary teachers other than those undergoing the Droichead process, as defined above. To meet the condition of PQE, teachers are required to complete a period of post-qualification employment.


From September 2018, Droichead is the only route of induction for NQTs in Special Education settings (SET) settings, in large primary schools where there are 16 or more mainstream teachers or in post-primary schools of 400 or more students (Circular 10/2018). The school’s eligibility is determined by the staffing schedule contained in the relevant DES circular. Other categories of schools may choose to opt in to Droichead also. Probation by the Inspectorate will not be possible in such schools. In cases where a primary NQT is employed in an eligible setting in a school which does not offer Droichead, he/she may complete probation and the Induction Workshop Programme to meet the registration conditions. Post-primary teachers employed for a sufficient period of time in a post-primary school or special education school which participates in Droichead will be required to complete the Droichead process to meet the registration condition.


Under traditional arrangements, the Inspectorate evaluates the professional competence of probationary teachers following one or more unannounced visits.


A primary teacher may undertake the probationary process when employed as a mainstream class teacher in a school so long as the school is not registered for Droichead. Employment in a permanent, temporary or substitute capacity is eligible, where the teacher is teaching all 11 subjects of the Primary School Curriculum, including Irish, to a mainstream class of pupils from junior infants to sixth class (single or multi-grade) for the entire school day. This service must take place after an initial teacher education qualification has been successfully completed and within a maximum of three years from the date of initial registration or, if applicable, from the date on which other conditions are met (with the exception of the Induction Workshop Programme which may be undertaken at the same time as probation).


It is during this period that the Inspectorate of the DES will evaluate the professional competence of the teacher. The outcome of the evaluation informs the Teaching Council's decisions regarding the conditional or full registration of a teacher.  Individual teachers are required to provide the Teaching Council with evidence that they have fulfilled the service requirement and have satisfactorily completed the competence requirements. In certain circumstances the probationary period may be extended beyond three years. Teachers have the right to appeal the outcome of any inspectorate evaluation, including evaluation for registration probation purposes in accordance with procedures for Review of Inspections on Schools and Teachers under Section 13 (9) of the Education Act 1998.


A teacher, who wishes to teach at post-primary level, and to qualify for the receipt of incremental salary, must satisfy the conditions stipulated for registration by the Teaching Council. There are two pathways to registration, each with a minimum duration of four years, as follows:


  • Consecutive: a primary degree followed by a separate teacher education diploma (Professional Diploma in Education)
  • Concurrent: where academic and professional studies proceed simultaneously.


All newly qualified post-primary teachers are registered with the condition of Post Qualification Experience (PQE). In order to satisfy the condition of PQE, applicants must provide evidence of 300 hours’ teaching experience in a recognised post-primary school. Such evidence must be verified and signed by the school principal (or school principals where more than one school is involved). A minimum of two-thirds (200 hours) of the approved experience must be spent in the teaching of a post-primary curricular subject(s) to a designated class of students on the school’s timetable. Up to one-third (100 hours) of the approved experience can be carried out in any timetabled teaching activity. A maximum period of three years from the date of registration is set for the completion of this requirement.

Since secondary schools are privately owned and managed, the procedures for the selection of teachers are a matter for the management of each school. However, a fairly common format to govern selection of teachers and contracts for teachers has been agreed between the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) and the secondary teachers' union, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), and this is in line with accepted good practice. While secondary teachers may teach subjects other than those in their degree qualification, teachers in education and training boards (ETBs) and community/comprehensive schools must hold university qualifications in the subjects they teach.

Previously, there were two types of teachers in many post-primary schools - teachers of general subjects, who are university graduates with a teaching subject in their degree and teachers of specialist subjects, e.g. art, music, home economics, physical education, materials technology (Wood) and construction studies, who must hold recognised teaching degrees or diplomas. Since 1 April 2013, all post-primary teachers are registered in accordance with the same requirements – appropriate degree for at least one curricular subject and a teacher education qualification. Teachers in ETB schools are appointed by a selection board nominated by the ETB.  As such teachers are appointed by the ETBs, to the ETB ‘scheme’ rather than to an individual school, they may be required to move from one school to another within the local scheme. Appointments to Comprehensive and Community Schools are made by the boards of management on the recommendation of a selection board.

Whenever an appointment is made to any type of school, unsuccessful candidates have a variety of mechanisms through which they can appeal the decision. Appeals can be made to the Equality Authority, the Employment Appeals Tribunal, or directly to the Minister for Education and Skills.


Early Childhood Education and Care

Under the Child Care Act 1991  (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 a registered ELC provider is required to ensure that all employees, unpaid workers and contractors are appropriately supervised and provided with appropriate information, and where necessary training, including in relation to the policies and procedures in operation in that setting.

Currently there are no standardised procedures or probation for the induction of new early years educators and school-age childcare practitioners. Under Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028 a standardised induction process will be incrementally introduced for new entrants beginning their first job in the profession, to help them adjust to their new professional role with the support of experienced colleagues. Work on an induction process will begin during the lifetime of Nurturing Skills and will include research, consultation, piloting and review, along with actions to develop services’ capacity and external supports for induction.

School Education

In 2002, a pilot scheme for teacher induction was established with a view to eventual national roll out.  The pilot scheme consisted of two strands – one for primary and one at post- primary.  In 2010, a full national rollout was implemented which was built on the experiences and learning garnered by the two strands of the  pilot scheme funded by the Department, and has dovetailed with the Teaching Council’s registration requirements.


Building on the knowledge, skills and competences developed during the initial teacher education stage, the National Induction Programme for Teachers provides professional support and advice to newly qualified teachers. This covers areas such as classroom management and organisation, working as a professional, planning and preparation of work, assessment, differentiation, teaching literacy and numeracy, practical strategies for teaching Irish, behaviour management, inclusive practice, child protection and working with parents. The programme is delivered in a variety of modes (including workshops, seminars, online support and professional support groups). The induction programme complements the support, advice, and opportunities for teacher observation and feedback that principal teachers and other teachers provide to newly qualified teachers in their schools. Recognising the importance of the continuum of teacher education, the National Induction Programme for Teachers ensures close linkage with teacher educators in colleges of education and universities.

The National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT) is a cross-sectoral team which has a national cross sectoral consultative group and a national cross sectoral management group. A programme of national induction workshops is now in place (2012) and all teachers are required to attend 10 workshops session within three years of first registration with the Teaching Council. Full registration is only available when both probation and induction workshop programmes have been completed.  

Induction has been defined as a specific phase in the life-time of a teacher, one that brings with it unique challenges, requirements and needs. The main objective of the Induction programme is towards supporting the professional development of NQTs by way of systematic support in their first year of teaching, thus laying the foundations for subsequent professional growth and development.

The Teaching Council Act 2001 states that the Council shall establish procedures for the induction of new teachers and procedures and criteria for their probation. These responsibilities transferred to the Teaching Council on 1 September, 2012.  

Droichead, a period of supported professional practice, is a central feature of a new model of induction and probation being piloted by the Teaching Council in a number of schools over the coming two years (2013/2014 and 2014/2015).  A team of fellow professionals (Professional Support Team) provide both support and judge quality (signing off on NQTs reaching the standards laid down by the Council).  Inspectors will continue to evaluate the work of NQTs in non-pilot primary schools on behalf of the Council (2013/14 and 2014/15).  

Procedures for induction, probation and Droichead are set out in detail in the Teaching Council's document Post-qualification Professional Practice Procedures and Criteria 2018/2019 Pursuant to Section 7(2) (f) and (g) of the Teaching Council Acts 2001 to 2015.

Professional Status

Early Childhood Education and Care

Early years educators and school-age childcare (SAC) practitioners are either self-employed or private sector employees who are employed, in accordance with general employment legislation, by the individual services in which they work.

Those working in the sector have been undertaking a process of professionalisation over a number of years, with rising qualification levels, the introduction of a qualification requirement in 2016, increasing professional status, the publication of a career framework in Nurturing Skills in 2021, and the introduction of sector-specific minimum pay rates in 2022 including higher minimum pay rates for lead educators and managers with relevant graduate qualifications.

Given the place of ‘an appropriately skilled and sustainable professional workforce’ as one of the key ‘building blocks’ of an effective early childhood system, First 5, the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, 2019- 2028, committed to key milestones in further professionalisation, including achieving a graduate-led workforce in ELC and introducing minimum qualifications in SAC and in childminding by 2028.

Following through on the workforce commitments in First 5, Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for ELC and SAC 2022-2028 set out plans to raise qualification levels, to create professional development pathways, to promote careers in the sector, and to continue moving towards regulation of the profession.

School Education

Traditionally, Irish teachers have enjoyed high social status and public regard. Competition for entry to the profession is very keen. The work is viewed as significant for the well being of individuals and of society. Teaching is regarded as one of the caring professions. While periodically, during periods of industrial dispute, public attitudes may be critical towards teachers, at a deeper level, and as revealed in a series of attitudinal surveys, teaching still retains the respect of the public. Teaching in Ireland has suffered little in terms of teacher attrition levels unlike some other countries.

Teachers are not employed as civil servants, but are regarded as working within the public service. There is a significant difference in the pattern of first appointments between primary and post-primary teachers. Public sector employment quotas, combined with an increasing number of graduates, have reduced the availability of permanent posts for new entrants to the profession. Many teachers must first spend a number of years on part-time contracts, which may count for incremental salary scales. Once teachers achieve a permanent contract they have security of tenure, unless they are guilty of serious misconduct, or suffer illness or disability. Those on temporary contracts are more vulnerable to the changing needs of employers.

Redeployment schemes at post-primary level were introduced in 2011 to reduce instances of schools retaining a number of teachers above their quota, due to factors such as decline in pupil numbers, or non take-up of certain subjects. This complements the pre-existing redeployment panels at primary level.

The Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Conduct  sets out the standards of professional knowledge, skill, competence and conduct which are expected of registered teachers. In all, there are 33 such standards which reflect the complexity and variety of teaching and cover areas such as communication and relationships, equality and inclusion, compliance with national and school policies, professional development and pupil/student welfare. The standards are underpinned by four core values - respect, care, integrity and trust.

Replacement Measures

Early Childhood Education and Care

A person carrying out a pre-school service must ensure that a sufficient number of suitable, competent and qualified adults are working directly with the children at all times. The minimum adult: child ratios prescribed in Regulations must be maintained at all times in any service. Services must ensure they have scheduled enough staff to maintain the minimum adult-child ratios. Compliance with the regulations is monitored by Tusla, the independent statutory regulator of the sector.

The minimum regulatory adult-child ratios below relate to full time (5+ hours per day) and Part time (3.5 hours – 5 hours per day) services:

0 – 1 year of age, 1 adult: 3 children

1 – 2 years of age, 1 adult: 5 children

2 – 3 years of age, 1 adult: 6 children

3 – 6 years of age, 1 adult: 8 children

School-age children, 1 adult: 12 children

The ratios below relate to Sessional Services (up to 3.5 hours per day):

0 – 1 year of age 1 adult: 3 children

1 – 2.5 years of age 1 adult: 5 children

2.5 – 6 years of age 1 adult: 11 children

School Education

In the case of short, routine teacher absences existing staff, if free, may substitute for such teachers or supervise the pupils involved. For absences of three days or more the practice is to employ substitute teachers. Of course, the preference is to employ qualified teachers as substitutes, but this is not always possible. The State does not provide a cohort of supply teachers for such situations. There are a number of private agencies which assist schools with substitute teachers. Principal teachers also tend to build up informal links with qualified and registered teachers in their localities who indicate their availability for replacement purposes.

Support Measures

Early Childhood Education and Care

A number of support agencies are funded by DCEDIY to provide a range of training and mentoring supports to ELC and SAC services and staff.

In 2014, Better Start, the Early Years Specialist Service, was established to provide quality development mentoring to ELC services. As part of Better Start, a Learning and Development Unit was established in 2019 to strengthen training supports for the sector. First 5, the whole of Government strategy for babies, young children and their families, commits to align the national quality infrastructure around Better Start, and to develop a national programme of continuing professional development opportunities through Better Start.

City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs), which are funded by DCEDIY, support and assist families and ELC and SAC providers – including childminders – at local county level, providing guidance on State funding programmes and delivering a range of local-level supports to services.

A key role of the CCCs is to facilitate and support the development of quality, accessible ELC and SAC services for the overall benefit of children and their parents by taking a child-centred and partnership approach.

A number of national Voluntary Childcare Organisations (VCOs) represent the interests of, and provide support services to, ELC and SAC service providers, childminders and parents nationwide.

School Education

A programme of national induction workshops is now in place and all teachers are required to attend 10 workshops session within three years of first registration with the Teaching Council. Full registration is only available when both probation and induction workshop programmes have been completed. 


Serving teachers who encounter serious difficulties in the performance of their teaching activity due to professional, personal, health or domestic problems usually get advice and assistance from the principal teacher, or a delegated staff member. Where appropriate, they will be recommended to engage in professional development activities and facilitated to do so. Section 24 (3) of the Education Act 1998 provides for disciplinary procedures against teachers and/or principal teachers by boards of management. A staged procedure provides a key role for the board of management of the particular school, and in some instances, the professional development support services. There is also a role for the inspectorate at Stage 3 where the matter involves professional competence as opposed to conduct issues. 


Early Childhood Education and Care

In December 2020, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth began a process to examine the possibility of regulating the pay and conditions of employment of educators and practitioners in ELC and SAC, and to examine the suitability of establishing a Joint Labour Committee, which is a statutory industrial relations mechanism, for the ELC and SAC sector.

A Joint Labour Committee for the sector was established in 2021, and in Budget 2022 the Minister secured new Core Funding with a number of objectives including to support the agreement of minimum pay rates and terms and conditions for the sector through the Joint Labour Committee process. 

As a result, in September 2022, Employment Regulation Orders for the ELC and SAC sector came into force for the first time. These prescribe minimum rates of pay for early years educators and SAC practitioners, with higher minimum rates of pay prescribed for lead educators and managers, and for those lead educators and managers who have relevant qualifications at level 7 or higher on the NFQ.

Providers of ELC and SAC services are autonomous in terms of staffing and each one determines its own recruitment procedures along with terms and conditions for their workforce.  Providers are free to set wages higher than the minimum levels prescribed in the Employment Regulation Orders.

Nurturing Skills, the Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022 to 2028 was published in December 2021. Actions in Nurturing Skills to develop career pathways and promote careers in the sector will complement efforts to improve pay and conditions of employment, to make the sector more attractive to potential workers.

School Education

A common basic salary scale of twenty-five increments exists for all teachers, and, thus, a linear salary model operates. Annual increments occur for the first fifteen years, then three further increments after three, four and three further years are given. In addition, the school Principal, Deputy Principal, Assistant Principal and Special Duties teachers receive extra allowances in relation to the responsibilities they exercise. Some academic qualifications also attract special allowances, although some/most of these have been eliminated for new entrants in recent years. Teachers who complete a course of three years' duration (that is, most primary teachers) are placed on entry on the 2nd point of the salary scale, while teachers who complete a full-time course of four or more years such as a degree followed by a teacher education diploma are placed on entry on the 3rd point of the scale.

A Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme has been in existence for teacher salaries since 1951. In recent years conditions of work have also come under its ambit.

Since 1989, a series of national social partnership agreements has been in operation, which determined national salary settlements for society at large. These agreements also included some conditions of service. Teachers unions have been part of these national agreements.  

The current (2018) common salary scale for teachers is a 27-point incremental scale from €36,318 to €68,213. Principals' allowances range from €9,310 to €29,776, depending on the number of authorised teaching posts in the school.

About 25% of primary teachers benefit from Principal or Deputy Principal allowances, while a further 25% benefit from Assistant Principals or Special Duties allowances. The number of post-primary schools is much smaller, and only about 6% of staff benefit from Principal or Deputy Principal Allowances. However, 47% are in receipt of Assistant Principals or Special Duties Allowances. Thus, over half the teaching force benefits from some responsibility allowance.

A range of allowances for academic qualifications from primary degree to doctorate is also payable to teachers. For example, holders of an honours degree are paid from €4,918 and an honours masters degree from €5,496. The allowance for a doctorate degree is €6,140. A teacher is entitled to benefit from one degree allowance only. Allowances are payable to teachers holding diplomas for teaching of the deaf/hearing impaired and the visually impaired. Other relatively small allowances are paid to teachers teaching through the medium of Irish (€1,583) or teaching on islands (€1, 428). Extra allowances were also negotiated in 2002 for teachers who volunteer for a set amount of substitution and supervision in schools.

Once entered on the common salary scale, following successful probation, progression up the incremental ladder is automatic, unless some grave problem emerges which might call for a special enquiry.  It is only in the rare cases of teacher dismissal for grave inefficiency or unprofessional conduct that a teacher's entitlement to salary is terminated.

The common salary scale pertains to all qualified, registered and permanently employed teachers. They neither suffer any salary diminution for below average performance nor benefit from any bonuses for what might be regarded as outstanding work. There is a very strong adherence by the teacher unions to the existing salary scheme. There has been no indication of a policy change being envisaged in the salary arrangements. Teachers recruited from other career paths get no salary recognition for such experience and are requested to begin at the start of the incremental scale. Non-earning-related incentives, such as benefit or treatment-in-kind, does not apply to teachers. In the small number of private fee-paying secondary schools, staff may be supplied with free or highly subsidised lunches, as well as bonuses for study or games supervision.

Working Time

Early Childhood Education and Care

In terms of working time and holidays, ELC and SAC services are provided by private enterprises, either privately owned or operated by community organisations. While service providers are contracted by the Department to provide services at a subsidised rate to parents, they are free to set their own policies regarding opening hours, fees and other matters.  Staff may be employed on a part time, full time or sessional basis.

Providers of ELC and SAC services are autonomous in terms of staffing and each one determines its own recruitment procedures along with terms and conditions for their workforce, provided they comply with statutory requirements such as the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. 

School Education

Primary teachers are obliged to be present for teaching for 5 hours and 40 minutes each day and primary schools are required to be open for instruction for 183 days a year. The actual teaching contract hours per annum have been calculated at 915. This is well above the OECD average of 795 hours per annum (OECD, Education At A Glance, 2005, p.375). There is no compulsion for a primary teacher to remain on school premises after the end of the formal school day except when they are required to attend for 36 hours for whole-staff activities as part of the Croke Park agreement. In addition, some teachers spend varying, but unspecified amounts of extra time, outside the formal school day at work-related activity, depending on their individual responsibility – administration, posts of responsibility, class preparation activity, informal pupil contact (games, clubs) meetings – either on or off the school premises.


At post-primary level, a teacher's contractual teaching hours are organised over the working week in accordance with the school's timetabling arrangements, and time spent on school premises may vary from day to day. A practice has arisen whereby time spent on school premises may not necessarily be continuous through the day. As with their primary teaching colleagues, many teachers spend longer than contracted hours (usually about 22 hours per week), either on or off the school premises, engaged in various teaching-related, or culture-related tasks, but this time is unregulated. Post-primary schools are required to be open for 179 days per annum. However, as these schools are deemed to be open during the period of the state certificate examinations (12 days), they are in effect open for instruction for 167 days. The DES has calculated that post-primary teachers at both junior cycle and senior cycle teach for about 775 hours per annum. The OECD average for lower secondary education is 701 hours per annum, but that for upper secondary is less, at an average of 661 hours (OECD, Education at a Glance). Thus, post-primary teachers in Ireland also teach above the OECD average hours.

In Ireland, while the required actual teaching time is specified for teachers, there are no state regulations regarding other aspects of the teacher's work such as class preparation, marking of student tests, contributions to school planning, extra-curricular educational activities. Such matters are left to schools' and individual teachers’ discretion. Post-primary teachers are now required to engage in 33 hours whole school activities outside the teaching day as part of the Croke Park agreement. There has been a tradition of teachers devoting a good deal of non-teaching time to games, debates, musical events, outward bound activities, on a voluntary basis, or for limited financial reward. Representatives of school management and principals' associations suggest that this tradition is changing. Because of the lack of specification in teacher contractual conditions for any activity other than specific teaching hours, it is proving difficult for school administrations to organise time.

There are three main occasions when school closures punctuate the school year – summer, Christmas and Easter time. These are supplemented by shorter breaks around the October Bank holiday and mid-spring. Formerly, schools were free to make their own arrangements, once they fulfilled the state's requirements of 183 days teaching for primary schools and 167 days teaching for secondary schools. With changing life and work-styles the variability was proving unsatisfactory for many parents. Under the direction of the Minister for Education and Skills the key stakeholders now agree common dates for breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term in the first and second terms of the school, and these are published in advance. Of course, principals and deputy principals will be working at school during some of the official school closures.


Early Childhood Education and care

The development of a career framework is an essential element of Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for ELC and SAC 2022-2028. The report identifies three basic career grades for centre-based ELC: Early Years Educator, Lead Educator, and Manager. Role profiles have been published in Nurturing Skills that set out the competences required of these different roles. These roles were then given statutory meaning in the Employment Regulation Orders for Early Years Services that came into effect in September 2022.

Early Years Educator (or SAC practitioner)

An Early Years Educator (or SAC practitioner) has responsibility for their own actions under direction and some responsibility for the quality of the service within established guidelines. All Early Years Educators may be ‘key persons’ within the Key Person Approach, which will in future be recommended or required in all settings, given its benefits for children, for partnership with families, and for Educators and Practitioners.

In ELC, the minimum entry requirement is a level 5 major award in ELC. However, supports will be provided to enable an increasing proportion of Early Years Educators to have a qualification at level 6, recognising the complexity of the role they undertake. While a level 6 award will not be required during the timeframe of Nurturing Skills (to 2028), this Plan sets a target of increasing the proportion of Early Years Educators with a level 6 (or higher) qualification from 72% in 2021 to 85% by 2028.

Lead Educator

In ELC, a Lead Educator has responsibility for the learning and care for a group of children, leading the practice with that group of children. This will become a graduate role over time; First 5 sets a target that by 2028 all Lead Educators in ELC should have a qualification at level 7 or higher. In the ECCE programme, Lead Educators must have a qualification at level 6 or higher. Core Funding, provided by DCEDIY, incentivises the employment of graduates in Lead Educator roles.


The Manager is the person in charge of a setting. Currently there is no regulatory requirement for a manager to have a qualification if the manager does not work directly with children. Over the lifetime of Nurturing Skills (to 2028), minimum qualification requirements will be introduced for Managers, at Level 6 in ELC. In line with First 5, it will be a target that by 2028 all Managers of ELC services should have a qualification at Level 7 or higher.


School Education

There are four categories of promotion posts – principal, deputy principal, assistant principal and special duties posts. The post of principal in the great majority of schools is filled by selection interview. As most voluntary secondary schools are owned by religious groups, the tradition was that a member of the particular religious order was appointed principal by the trustee. Nowadays, an increasing number of lay principals are being appointed by selection interview. The post of deputy principal is filled by open competition. In voluntary secondary schools with fewer than 17 incremental posts the post of deputy principal is advertised internally in schools, while in larger schools the posts are advertised publicly.


The posts of assistant principal and special duties posts are internal school promotion posts to which extra allowances are attached. Post allowances in all except community and comprehensive schools are paid directly by the DES to post holders. In ETB schools, as with salaries, the allowances are paid by the ETB. The responsibilities of post holders are at the discretion of the school management but are obliged to comply with the DES guidelines. However, the new in-school management arrangements since September 1998 have introduced a whole-school approach supported by formal agreements. Boards of management must now review the post structure every two years, or when a new post arises, or by request from an individual post-holder.

Principals of primary schools with seven or more assistant teachers are not required to teach. Other post holders are required to teach full time. The responsibilities of principals are set out in a departmental circular, which summarises them as follows:

Subject to the authority of the Chairperson of the Board of Management, the principal teacher is responsible for the discipline of the school generally, the control of other members of teaching-staff, including the co-ordination and effective supervision of their work, the organisation of the school, the keeping of the records of attendance, the time-table arrangements and their observance, the books used by the pupils, the arrangements in connection with the Free Book Scheme for necessitous children, and all other matters connected with the school arrangements in each division.  

The circular sets out these responsibilities in detail under a number of headings, ending with a section on duties that may be delegated and indicating that the board of management, in consultation with the principal, should assign specific duties to other post holders. The Education Act, 1998, PART V, sets the role and functions of the principal (and teachers) in its legal framework.

With the exception of the deputy principal, post holders in voluntary secondary schools are required to teach at least 18 hours per week. In the public sector post-primary schools, assistant principals are required to teach 18 hours per week. Principals in voluntary secondary schools with more than 60 pupils are not required to teach. Principals in the public-sector post-primary schools must teach the number of hours related to the points rating of the school (minimum 5 hours per week). In the case of deputy principal all are expected to teach, the amount varying with post-primary school size or points rating.

In the case of the community and comprehensive schools, duties are the responsibility of the boards of management in the individual schools, although the DES has provided a draft schedule of conditions of service for post-holders. Principals are required to be responsible, under the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the ETB, for the organisation, discipline and administration of the school. Other post holders, including the deputy principal, have the same responsibilities but under the principal rather than the CEO. Management's responsibility to the DES remains. However, under the in-school management agreement implemented in September 1998 there have been considerable developments.

Opportunities exist for teachers to join the Inspectorate of the DES, to be recruited into teacher education institutions and to transfer to curriculum bodies, or agencies such as the Education Centres. In all such instances teachers need to have a distinguished track record in teaching, and usually have gained post-graduate qualifications in education, such as Masters in Education degree. Recruitment to such positions tends to be very competitive and involves intensive selection interviews. Teachers may also apply for vacancies as CEOs of the ETB.

Mobility and Transfers

Early Childhood Education and Care

Staff members in ELC services are employed by service providers that are private businesses. Staff mobility is therefore dependent on the recruitment procedures of each individual service provider. Each service is required to ensure that all staff have a minimum level 5 qualification or equivalent (from DCEDIY approved list), Garda (police) vetting and at least two validated references. Garda vetting is not transferable between employers, therefore each time staff transfer between employers, a new Garda vetting request must be processed.

School Education

As the great majority of teachers are employed on successful application by individual school management boards, the matter of teacher transfer is a complex one. In the community/comprehensive sector, teachers are appointed to the ETB scheme rather than to individual schools which facilitates teacher transfer within the scheme. There is a redeployment panel scheme operating for the primary sector, which is aimed at facilitating teacher redeployment in the context of decline in pupil enrolments and school rationalisation policies.


 There is also a redeployment scheme for voluntary secondary schools. The Report of a Ministerial Committee on the Future Allocation of Post-Primary Teachers (2001) recommended a cross-sectoral scheme for teacher redeployment for all post-primary schools. As seniority in schools is a factor in many promotion posts, this is a disincentive to teacher mobility. A decline in the school-going population is also an inhibitory factor on teacher mobility.


A scheme allowing for the redeployment of teachers into schools with teaching vacancies (other than in situations of school closure) was included in the Croke Park Agreement, which was accepted by ASTI members in January 2011.


A procedure in relation to redeployment of post primary teachers, surplus to requirements in school closure situations, was agreed under the provisions of the Towards 2016 agreement. The arranged scheme applies to permanent/C.I.D. post primary teachers surplus to requirements in situations other than school closure. It also applies to other persons employed as teachers in a permanent/ C.I.D. capacity and who are surplus to requirements.


A pilot voluntary redeployment scheme, established in 2013 is to continue operating in 7 counties from September 2018.  The scheme allows permanent/CID teachers who are employed in schools in these counties to express an interest in being redeployed to another post primary school anywhere in the country.  If a teacher applies for voluntary redeployment and a suitable vacancy exists in a school in his/her preferred area, he/she may be offered a redeployment to that vacancy.

However, they will only be redeployed if a suitable teacher can be redeployed to their school to replace them.  The scheme, which was negotiated by the ASTI and TUI under the Croke Park Agreement, allows for teachers in schools not in a surplus teacher situation to transfer on a voluntary basis to another school or geographical area.   The school must indicate its willingness to release the teacher and to accept a replacement teacher on redeployment. Principals should declare on the form the preferred subject options that the school requires as a replacement. These subjects do not have to be specific subjects; this gives the school an opportunity to address a curriculum mismatch within the school.

The introduction of a number of schemes has opened up opportunities for some teachers to widen work experience. These include a scheme for career breaks for up to five years, job-sharing and secondments of teachers to areas such as initial teacher education and continuing professional development programmes, including curriculum development initiatives.

A range of speciality dimensions has developed within the profession, which allows teachers to qualify for and experience specialised aspects of teaching such as in special education, guidance counselling, home-school-community liaison, etc. Many teachers find these opportunities professionally satisfying in relation to their interests and skills.

If teachers change role within the education system, they retain their salary and pension rights. Teachers cannot transfer from primary school to post-primary school, or vice versa, without achieving the qualification and registration with the Teaching Council required for employment in the relevant sector. Teachers are free to move schools as and when they wish without restriction, subject to available opportunity. However, they do not carry promotion posts with them, except if appointed as principal teacher, as seniority of service in an individual school is still an important criterion for promotion. The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons Acts 2012 – 2016) came into effect in April 2016. It is now mandatory for people working with children or vulnerable people to be vetted by the Garda Siochana National Vetting Bureau.


Early Childhood Education and Care

Each ELC and SAC service is autonomous in terms of staffing, subject to compliance with general employment legislation and regulatory requirements. There is no professional register of early years educators.

School Education

Provision exists for the dismissal of teachers for gross misconduct or major dereliction of duty. However, dismissal from teaching is a rare occurrence and legal requirements, as well as teacher union support roles make it a difficult process. Regulations concerning due process ensure that the grounds for dismissal must be serious and be well attested by evidence.  Where debilitating illness occurs, a teacher can retire on the basis of disability, on the presentation of satisfactory medical evidence. Sometimes teachers take retirement on disability grounds in preference to dismissal procedures. In the case of crimes alleged against a teacher such as child sexual abuse or serious physical abuse a teacher may be suspended from the service pending investigations into the allegation or the outcome of legal proceedings.


Section 24 (3) of the Education Act 1998 provides for disciplinary procedures against teachers and/or principal teachers by boards of management. A staged procedure provides a key role for the board of management of the particular school, and in some instances, the professional development support services. There is also a role for the inspectorate at Stage 3 where the matter involves professional competence as opposed to conduct issues. 

The Teaching Council is the professional standards body for teaching that promotes and regulates the teaching profession. It acts in the interests of the public good while upholding and enhancing the reputation of the teaching profession. One of the functions of the Teaching Council is to investigate complaints and, where necessary, hold inquiries about registered teachers.

The Teaching Council published the second edition of the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers on 20 June 2012. The Code sets out the standards of professional knowledge, skill, competence and conduct which are expected of registered teachers.

The standards are underpinned by four core values – respect, care, integrity and trust, and reflect the complexity of teaching. A copy of the second edition of the Code was posted to every registered teacher.

The Minister for Education and Skills formally commenced Part 5 of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015 on 25 July 2016 which allows the Council to receive complaints about registered teachers and to conduct investigations and hold inquiries, where deemed appropriate. It provides for the holding of inquiries/hearings by Panels of the Disciplinary Committee, where necessary. Part 5 of the Act also provides for the possible imposition of sanctions, if a finding is made at the conclusion of an inquiry.

Any person including members of the public, employers and other teachers may make a complaint about a registered teacher. In addition, the Teaching Council can itself make a complaint about a registered teacher.

Retirement and Pensions

Early Childhood Education and Care

Each ELC and SAC service is autonomous in terms of staffing, subject to compliance with general employment legislation. Staff in ELC services are subject to the general retirement and pensions provisions that apply.

School Education

On the 5th December 2017, the Government agreed to make changes which will affect the compulsory retirement ages of some public servants and to the drafting of legislation to provide for same. In summary: The compulsory retirement age for public servants recruited before 1st April 2004 will be increased to 70 years – to be the same as the compulsory retirement age of members with pension benefits under the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other provisions) Act 2012; Any additional service above age 65 would be pensionable but subject to a maximum of 40 years’ service which would be reckonable for pension benefits. In making these changes:  No change is proposed to minimum retirement ages where they exist; No change is proposed for those who were recruited between 1st April 2004 and 31st December 2012 and who have no compulsory retirement age.

It is intended that the changes will become legally operative by way of an amendment to the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. Until that happens, compulsory retirement ages currently in effect remain.

Previously, retirement was compulsory at the end of the school year in which a teacher reached age 65. Provision also exits for a voluntary retirement pension for teachers over 60, or at over 55 for those primary teachers with at least 35 years pensionable service. There is also provision for death gratuities, disability pensions and gratuities, and preserved pension, payable at age 60 for those who leave the service with at least 5 years pensionable service.

A Spouses Children's Pension Scheme (contribution: 1.5% of pensionable salary) provides for payment of a pension to a teacher's spouse and eligible children in the event of his/her death. This scheme is compulsory for new teachers becoming pensionable but was optional for those in service at the time of its introduction (1969 in the case of male teachers; 1981 in the case of female teachers). Teachers who pay the Class D rate of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI), because they are members of the superannuation scheme and have been continuously employed from a date prior to 6 April 1995, have limited social insurance cover. They are covered only for health services, deserted wives and widows and orphans’ benefits and occupational injuries benefits. Teachers who pay the Class A rate of PRSI (because they were appointed on or after 6 April 1995 or, in the case of second level teachers, appointed before that date, because they have not joined the Superannuation Scheme), are fully insured under the PRSI Schemes, pay a contribution of up to 8.75% of gross salary.