An indefinite delay in implementing a £33 million teacher replacement scheme has left the profession facing a major crisis, the main teaching unions have said.
The Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme – announced by Education Minister John O’Dowd in December 2015 – was designed to allow teachers over the age of 55 to retire so that a position would become available for a newly-qualified teacher.
On Tuesday it was announced that the initiative had been put on hold for the next Assembly Executive to decide its future.
In a joint statement, the union officials expressed their shock, but said they “remain committed to this initiative which they believe is an innovative way to rebalance the age profile in schools”.
The statement was issued by: Avril Hall-Callaghan (chairperson, NITC) general secretary UTU; Tony Carlin (secretary, NITC), senior official INTO; Mark Langhammer, director ATL and Harry Greer, chairperson NAHT.
It said the profession could be facing it biggest crisis in a generation.
“This scheme was seen as a lifeline for the profession to give 500 newly qualified teachers permanent jobs, thus stemming arguably the biggest crisis in the profession in a generation.
“We’ve been told that a decision on whether the scheme will proceed will be made by the new education minister following the elections May and once ministers have been appointed.
“This is extremely disappointing. The unions will be lobbying the political parties in the run-up to the election and will prevail upon the new minister to implement the scheme as soon as possible.”
Avril Hall-Callaghan added: “It is imperative that this £33 million should not be lost to the education budget, particularly at a time when school budgets have been impacted upon so negatively by both the austerity cuts and increases to ongoing costs such as national insurance.”