Scheme to recruit recently qualified teachers in Northern Ireland delayed
A controversial teacher recruitment programme which discriminates against those qualified for more than three years will not be introduced this year, the Department of Education has confirmed.
Teachers hit out in fury after former Education Minister John O'Dowd announced the £33m Investing in the Teaching Workforce scheme that proposed encouraging older teachers to retire and be replaced by brand new teaching graduates.
It was initially expected to be up and running by spring 2016.
It sparked a furious reaction from teachers who were qualified for more than three years and would have been barred from applying for the new jobs.
A lobby organisation, Equal Rights for All Teachers campaign group was set up to voice opposition to the proposals. More than 7,000 signed an online petition against the scheme. Following representations from teachers, Mr O'Dowd rowed back on the scheme and said the Executive would decide if the three-year limit should be increased.
New Education Minister Peter Weir says he will delay the introduction of the scheme.
In response to an Assembly Question, he said he plans to "take time to consider the detail of the proposed Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme".
He added: "I am mindful of the academic year and the importance of minimising disruption to the delivery of the curriculum to pupils. As such, an Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme will not run before the next academic year."
A spokesman for the Equal Rights for Teachers group has welcomed the move. "We hope it goes ahead without the caveat placed upon the scheme, ie, allowing any teacher to apply," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
The group said it has never called for the scheme to be scrapped, but simply wants the new jobs to be open to all. "We hope that the new minister and the new Assembly work towards making the scheme available to all unemployed teachers and allow our colleagues over the age of 55 to retire," it said in a previous statement.
The scheme had been proposed by teachers' unions. Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, previously spoke out, calling for the scheme to be introduced.
"The teaching unions remain committed to this initiative which they believe is an innovative way to rebalance the age profile in schools.
"It is imperative that this £33m should not be lost to the education budget," she said.