Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe has acknowledged that the number of teachers retiring from primary and secondary schools so far this year is 'significant.'

The latest figures show that 850 primary school teachers and 738 in the secondary system have retired so far in 2009.

Fine Gael's Education Spokesperson Brian Hayes said it was extraordinary that the figures showed that one in every 10 post-primary school principals have stepped down in 2009.

He described it as 'flight' and a very serious loss of experience.

The Minister also refused to be drawn on whether college registration fees would be increased in the upcoming Budget.

Responding to a question from Mr Hayes, Mr O'Keeffe said it was a budgetary matter for Government.

Last year the fees increased €900 to €1,500.