Ulster Unionist Education spokesperson, Rosemary Barton, responded to the judgment of the Hon Mr Justice Colton who today determined that the terms of the Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme are lawful.
Rosemary Barton said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party has been critical of this scheme from the very beginning. This is a missed opportunity to devise a fully costed and long term workforce planning strategy for the teaching profession. Over the last 6 years the percentage of newly qualified teachers gaining employment on a permanent or significant temporary basis has been declined rapidly. According to figures from the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland in 2011/12 only 70% of graduates registered with them were in employment. By 2015/16 the figure had fallen to 32%. The figures are a cause for concern.
“The next Education Minister and Economy Minister must have a serious dialogue about the number of teachers who are needed and how many are trained as this situation is not sustainable. It is simply unfathomable that when we face a shortage of doctors, nurses and software engineers that we continue to train too many teachers for the number of jobs available.
“The scheme which was the subject of the court judgment made today was designed to pay off around 500 teachers on full pensions at over 55. Instead, the scheme now plans to allow 120 teachers to leave the teaching profession early. This will have a very limited impact on a large scale problem.
“As a retired teacher I know all too well the pressures faced by teachers and the stagnation in the teaching workforce. The scheme itself only offered teachers qualified since 2012 the opportunity to avail of the employment opportunities and has failed to help the several thousand other teaching graduates who are seeking permanent employment.
“While it was ruled today by the High Court that the terms of the scheme are lawful, after speaking to many teachers and graduates, it is accepted by most that the scheme is still fundamentally unfair and most importantly it fails to solve the long terms problem of stagnation in the teaching profession.
“As a silver lining, I hope that for the many successful applicants to the scheme whose conditional offers have been put on hold during the time of the court case that there can be a speedy implementation of their offer to retire early.”