pound;24,400 salary to sit in the staffroom

Teacher barred from class refuses to go home gracefully. Anthony Garvey reports

TEACHER Tom Feehan turns up for class at 9.30 every morning - then spends the rest of the day reading newspapers and magazines in the staffroom until the school bell tells him it is time to go home. He has been doing that for the past six months, while drawing an annual salary of pound;40,000 (pound;24,400).

Now the case of the teacher who is being paid not to teach is to be raised in the Irish parliament in Dublin, with demands for an investigation by education minister Michael Woods. One member described the situation as "a public scandal".

The bizarre affair began last September, when Mr Feehan - who taught religion, civics and woodwork at McHale College, Achill Sound, County Mayo - was taken off the school roster, following an alleged series of rowdy classroom incidents.

The decision to remove him from the timetable was taken by Mayo vocational education committee, which felt his alleged inability to impose discipline raised safety fears for the students, and that it would be legally liable in the event of an accident.

Mr Feehan, who has been teaching for some 30 years, refused to accept the decision, or to take early retirement, even though he would have been eligible for a gratuity and a pension. Instead, with the full backing of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), he has been turning up for class each day, even though he is not allowed to teach, and is on full pay.

According to some of the parents, the spectacle of a teacher sitting in the staffroom all day is having a demoralising effect on the college's 17 other staff, as well as on its 210 students.

Michael McNulty, management board chairman, agreed that "a bad example is being shown to students at the most impressionable time of their lives", but claimed the union was refusing to allow the issue to be discussed at board level.

Mr Feehan would only say that he was being denied his right to teach. The TUI refused to comment, though it is understood to be in negotiations with the local vocational education committee.

However, Michael Ring of the opposition Fine Gael party, who represents the Mayo constituency, said he would be raising the case in parliament and pressing for an investigation by education minister Dr Woods. "How can a teacher be kept on the payroll when he hasn't given a lesson since September?," he asked. "This is a public scandal that must be sorted out as a matter of urgency."

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