The Ulster Unionist members of Stormont’s Education Committee have criticised the decision of the Education Minister to only extend by one year the eligibility criteria for recent teacher training graduates to apply for jobs under a proposed early retirement scheme.
Mid-Ulster MLA and Ulster Unionist education spokesperson, Sandra Overend MLA, said:
“I am shocked that the new Education Minister is pushing ahead with the Investing in the Workforce Scheme with only minimal changes to the O’Dowd plan. Mr Weir has decided to widen the much criticised eligibility criteria for applicants for positions under the early retirement scheme to teaching graduates from 2012 onwards, a mere one-year extension.
“Also, he has made the announcement at the beginning of the Summer recess, a trend that he seems to be copying from the previous Education Minister, John O'Dowd, who made the initial announcement during the Christmas Recess in 2015.
“There are a large number of teachers in part-time and temporary positions, who are longing for a permanent job, often waiting for longer-term teachers to retire, but most will still be ineligible to apply for the vacancies that will arise out of redundancies under this scheme.
“I am being told that some of these qualified teachers are even willing to accept a lower initial salary in order to be eligible for these jobs. I don't know if the Education Minister has considered these issues, but I am very disappointed that he has not made this announcement on the floor of the Assembly so that these questions can be put to him.”
Rosemary Barton, MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone said:
“As a former teacher, I of course welcome the announcement that teachers over 55 will now have the option of exiting the profession early. Teachers today are dealing with ever increasing workloads due to the demands of the curriculum, social demands and the copious amount of paperwork needed for accountability.
“However, I believe this scheme is discriminatory because it only offers teachers qualified since 2012 the opportunity to avail of these employment opportunities and fails to help the several thousand other teaching graduates find permanent secure employment. I believe teachers deserve better than this. While some have found temporary work for part of a week or 6 months per year, often this work is 50 or 60 miles from their homes. The teaching profession has become a very static workforce due to the limited movement of permanent staff as numbers in classrooms decline and promotion within the profession has reduced.
“Once again, this statement was not brought before the Assembly or Education committee for question or scrutiny. This is democratically unacceptable.”