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1,000 Northern Ireland teachers may take redundancy package

By Lindsay Fergus

A Patten-style redundancy package could see more than 1,000 teachers step down from their posts this summer, it has emerged.

But those who accept the enhanced deal of up to 90 weeks' pay - nearly two years' salary - will not be barred from reapplying for other teaching posts.

That means a 58-year-old teacher on a salary of £45,000 could walk away with £75,000 in severance before tax at the end of August and take up a job in another school the next month.

However, the Education Minister recently issued guidance encouraging boards of governors to give newly qualified teachers the opportunity to gain employment rather than offering substitute teaching opportunities to retired teachers.

The department also picks up the cost of substitution cover provided by a newly qualified teacher, but if a school wants to use a more experienced teacher they must bear the additional cost out of their own budget.

Teaching unions have welcomed the one-off severance package that was announced by John O'Dowd on Tuesday.

Anyone who opted for voluntary redundancy last year was entitled to a maximum of 60 weeks' pay - well below the 21 months offered to civil servants.

Unions believe it will encourage older, more expensive teachers who are eligible for retirement to step down.

Of the 19,000 teachers here, one in 10 is aged between 55 and 60 and there are 600 who are 60 or older. That in turn would free up vital resources for schools whose budgets are predominantly spent on salaries.

Gillian Garret, president of the Ulster Teachers' Union said: "This is something we have been campaigning for and we believe it is an option teachers close to retirement age may want to choose."

Tony Carlin, conditions of service spokesman for the Northern Ireland Teachers' Council, said: "The monies made available will be a welcome release valve for some schools this year."

UUP education spokesman David McNarry has expressed concern that the package is being targeted at over 55s.

He said: "I have concerns that the over 55s may be feeling pressured into taking packages.

"It is true schools may be able to save money on their budgets by hiring cheaper, younger teachers, but this has to be balanced by losing the competence and ability to control classes that many older teachers have."

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