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Executive to decide on contentious teaching scheme

By Rebecca Black

Published 10/03/2016

Education Minister John O'Dowd
Education Minister John O'Dowd

The Stormont Executive will today decide how a controversial new teacher workforce scheme will proceed.

It may be expanded to include new teachers with up to six years' experience.

The Investing in the Teaching Workforce scheme was announced by Education Minister John O'Dowd last December and proposes allowing early access to pensions for teachers aged 55 and over, with the post being replaced by a teacher who has qualified in the last three years.

Hundreds of new teachers qualify every year in Northern Ireland, but only a tiny percentage of these - 5% in 2013 - secure a permanent job.

However, teachers with more than three years' experience have protested against the proposed scheme, claiming it discriminates against them.

The scheme was due to be launched this month.

Mr O'Dowd told the Assembly's education committee yesterday he has presented the Executive with a paper detailing three options for the scheme.

"One is to continue with the original proposal of allowing teachers to retire at 55 and bring in recently qualified teachers," he told MLAs.

"I have given a proposal to the Executive to move from three years up to five or six years, or I have said to the Executive if you open this to everyone there are no savings, and there's actually a cost to the public purse."

The Executive is expected to discuss the matter at its meeting today.

Mr O'Dowd said the scheme could save £9m in the 2016/17 financial year, but that those full savings were now unlikely to be realised.

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn asked for clarification on whether the unions wished the scheme to proceed with the three-year experience option.

"They are not endorsing three years," Mr Lunn said, to which Mr O'Dowd responded: "Neither am I".

MLAs also questioned him on his decision last December to abolish the Youth Council.

Its functions have been moved to become part of the responsibilities of the Education Authority.

Mr O'Dowd said he has ring-fenced the £2.7m funding that the Youth Council previously distributed around 36 groups, adding it will be distributed to the groups by the EA.

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