Deputy Jan O'Sullivan raised the issue of teacher supply. She will be aware that there is a working group on teacher supply, which is chaired by the Secretary General at the Department. We are working on a number of measures, including some we can take straight away such as, for example, changing the rules on teachers returning from career breaks. We are also looking at outreach opportunities focusing on teachers young and not so young working in the south east of England and in the United Arab Emirates. We are launching a promotional and marketing drive over Christmas, and intend to roll out several such campaigns. Teacher supply is a big issue. On the specific issue of retirees, the combined figure for retired teachers working in primary schools and secondary schools in the year 2017-18 was 1,342. That figure highlights the nature and the scale of the demand and the pressures on the system. There are constraints and challenges in the capital city and different constraints and challenges in rural areas but overall, there is a big demand for teachers, as the Deputy pointed out, and we want to keep the focus on this issue. I certainly want to keep the focus on it. I am also engaged with the Teaching Council. Deputies, Senators and different school groups can sense a frustration when we are trying to register teachers. While there are reasons for that as well, it is an area on which I am working very closely with my officials to ensure there are ways in which we can speed up the response to that major issue.
The Deputy has knowledge of the superannuation issue from her previous role. We had Supplementary Estimates, and they are contained in the information pack provided. Totals of €40 million, €30 million, €37 million and €71 million were provided on the teacher side in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively. Those figures do not include the institute of technology sector. To dovetail into Deputy Thomas Byrne's questions around this type of practice, I am reliably informed that it is not an accounting trick. Having researched this matter myself and having asked the question as to why we end up in this situation - which does not only affect this Department - I have found there are legacy issues, given where we were and the constraints on resources in recent years. I have been assured that this figure will mitigate against having to provide a Supplementary Estimate. I am on public record on that now. Although nobody knows where we will be this time next year, I am convinced that the work being done by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will ensure that this issue does not arise every year. In fairness to the Department, there was no miscalculation of numbers. Those figures are too wide, given where we were a couple of months ago and where we are now. I accept the fact that we are coming from a position where there were great challenges on our resources and choices had to be made in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It also highlights the enormous challenge we face in terms of pensions, not just in the Department of Education and Skills but throughout the public service and Civil Service. We will have to find extra resources, and decisions will have to be made in that regard.
As for the issue of the Department's spending and whether there has been an increase or decrease, if one looks back over the figures it is clear that they fluctuate over the years. My personal commitment, the commitment of the Government and the commitment of the Oireachtas to education is front and centre stage at all times. It is the third biggest departmental spend and €10.8 billion will be spent in 2019. There is always an issue with extra resources, but as an economy grows and improves and as demographics in counties such as Dublin, Wicklow, Louth, Meath and Kildare change, the pressures change. I have asked for figures on the growth in those places where populations are growing. We have to respond to that. We are not, however, just looking at what is happening next year or in 2020. This must fit into the ten-year capital plan and how we gauge population growth in those areas. The officials in the Department and I are committed to ensuring that we continue to fight for our fair share of the distribution of funding at budget time. That will continue to be the focus. Cross-collaboration between Departments must also be pointed out. Each Department must look after its own funding but much work is taking place on a cross-collaborative basis as well. Education does not work in a silo and never has. It has always worked with industry. Even in the projects I have visited in my capacity as Minister in recent months, including the IBM project at Larkin community college or the work being done with Microsoft at Dublin City University, there is much cross-cutting work going on in the education sector. It is a creative space. I certainly will be focusing on keeping up with technological advancement as well, but that is a discussion for another day.