More than 200 teaching and healthcare jobs are to be created in Northern Ireland over the next two years as part of a £26 million initiative announced today.
The First and Deputy First Ministers said the six projects included in the Delivering Social Change Framework will help improve numeracy and literacy, tackle poverty and deprivation, and provide much-needed employment for graduates.
Speaking at Stormont today, Peter Robinson said: “We want everyone to be equipped with the skills to strengthen our economic growth and for everyone to benefit from our mainstream education, health and employment programmes.
“Without even the most basic educational qualifications many of our young people find it a struggle to get a job and create a better life.
“The additional support being provided for literacy and numeracy will tackle this problem head-on and help our young people obtain the qualifications to find work. It will also provide 230 young unemployed teachers with an opportunity to get teaching experience while contributing to raising educational achievement.”
The six projects being rolled out over the next two years include the employment of 150 recently qualified teachers to deliver one-to-one tuition in English and maths to Year 11 and 12 post-primary school pupils who are not projected to get a C grade.
A further 80 new teaching graduates will also be given a two-year contract to tutor primary school pupils struggling with reading and maths.
Up to 50 health workers are being recruited to run £2 million parenting programmes for 1,200 families living in areas of social deprivation.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “Today’s announcement is about working together in new ways across departments and in partnership with the community, businesses and wider society. The aim is to make a tangible difference, particularly for our children and young people, over the next two years.
“This programme will lay the foundation for sustained social improvement and economic growth in the longer term.
“Crucially, it underscores the importance that the entire Executive places on addressing the needs of all of our citizens - in particular hose suffering disadvantage and those who have been left on the margins of society.”
Also included in the new scheme is a pilot intervention to support young people not in education, employment or training (Neets) and the establishment of 10 family support hubs to provide co-ordinated early intervention services in local areas.
A total of £4 million has been set aside for the creation of 10 social enterprise incubation hubs to encourage business start-ups in empty or derelict clusters of units and shops to reduce unemployment in local areas of deprivation. The money will also be used to establish 20 new children’s nurture units to offer support, help and guidance to targeted pupils within the school environment.
The £26 million investment has been welcomed by teaching unions. Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (Into), said: “Over the summer Into has initiated talks and engaged with relevant stakeholders including the Department of Education. One of the strands of these discussions has been the issue of unemployed newly qualified teachers.
“Into has stressed that to improve standards in schools we must continually refresh the teaching workforce. This announcement today is one step to taking forward this investment in teaching.”
Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard described the new initiative as excellent.
He said: “One of the biggest criticisms of the past few years coming from newly qualified teachers is that they cannot access a placement in a school that will allow them experience to compete for jobs within the profession.
“This scheme is excellent in that it will employ 230 teachers to deliver one-to-one tuition in order to raise standards in English and maths.
“Many young people are leaving school without achieving a basic qualification in either English or maths and putting extra resources into addressing this should help reduce this number.
“It will also allow schools who are struggling under budget constraints to have access to a teacher to provide extra tuition to those pupils who need a helping hand to fulfil their potential.
“It is important that we higher standards right across the board and allow newly qualified teachers to gain employment and this announcement today will help achieve both objectives.”