An estimated 2,000 teachers have protested at the Dáil over Government cutbacks, which they say are having a significant impact on the classroom.

National school teachers have warned the school system is at breaking point, while secondary teachers' unions say any further cuts in education will have a profound effect on society.

Members of the three main teaching unions - the INTO, ASTI and the TUI - staged the protest over the lack of equal pay for newly-qualified teachers.

New entrants to the profession say a raft of Budget and other cuts mean that they are now earning 27% less than their senior colleagues after tax.

The INTO estimates that the pay difference will amount to more than €250,000 over the course of a career.

Salaries for new teachers were cut by 13% in 2011 and those appointed after 31 January this year faced a further 20% drop in pay due to the abolition of qualification allowances.

In 2009, new entrants to the profession earned almost €41,000 annually.

Since then, the starting salary for new teachers has been reduced to just over €32,000.

'Nothing left to take from education' - Pat King

ASTI General Secretary Pat King said that the protest was about sending a message to Government that "there is nothing left to take from education" in the Budget.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr King said that the previous four Budgets have devastated Irish education, increased class size and removed student supports.

Mr King said that teachers are very concerned that the Government may look at making further cuts in education.

"Young teachers have suffered far more than public servants generally," Mr King said.

"Public servants' pay has been cut time and time again over the past number of years. They've had levies and pay cuts.

"But young public servants have been cut with a further 10% pay cut at entry, but young teachers have a further 5-10% on top of that."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that the Minister for Education had brought in a new system that meant newcomers to the profession were employed on a lower starting salary wage than their colleagues because of the current financial situation.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the move as "wage apartheid" and called on Mr Kenny to reverse the cuts.

Elsewhere, Department of Education Assistant Secretary Pat Burke has told the Public Accounts Committee that a process is under way to negotiate cuts in non-core allowances to teachers.

Among these is the Teaching Through Irish Allowance, which is worth around €1,500 annually, and the Gaeltacht Allowance, which is worth more than €3,000.