£33m 'retire at 55' plan for Northern Ireland teachers now shelved
A Multi-million pound investment scheme to get newly-qualified teachers behind desks has been "mothballed", teaching unions here have claimed.
The scheme was branded a lifeline for the profession as it would have created 500 posts for young teachers who haven't been able to find work.
The £33m Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme was designed to replace older teachers with newly-qualified ones.
However, it appears the Department of Education's initiative has hit a stumbling block after it was revealed yesterday that it would not go ahead before next month's Assembly election.
The Northern Ireland Teachers' Council (NITC), which represents the main teaching unions, claimed it had been mothballed before it got off the ground.
It was expected to be up and running by spring, but there was no agreement on how newly-qualified a teacher should be before they apply for a job under the scheme.
Teaching unions have also claimed that the profession could be facing its biggest crisis in a generation.
In a joint statement issued by NITC, Ulster Teachers' Union, Irish National Teachers' Organisation, Association of Teachers and Lecturers and National Association of Head Teachers, they said the decision was "extremely disappointing".
Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union and chair of the NITC, said: "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.
"The Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme would allow teachers over the age of 55 to retire to provide a job for a recently-trained teacher who has been unable to find a post."
The NITC was told on Tuesday by the Department of Education it was not possible to go ahead with the planned scheme at the present time.
"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," the NITC added.
The Department of Education said: "The mandate for the current Executive has reached a point at which it is no longer possible to seek agreement to the scheme being finalised and launched."
Number of teaching jobs envisaged under the now stalled scheme