Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

Teacher forced overseas to find work blasts plans to limit jobs to graduates

By Rebecca Black

Published 02/01/2016

Rachel Gibbons, from Londonderry
Rachel Gibbons, from Londonderry

A Northern Ireland woman who claims that she had to move to Abu Dhabi to get a job as a teacher has blasted Education Minister John O'Dowd for closing the door on her being able to come home.

Rachel Gibbons, from Londonderry, moved to the Middle East as a newly qualified teacher two years ago after struggling to get a position at home.

Now, a new scheme proposed by the Department of Education will see less experienced teachers prioritised over older ones.

Rachel said she was worried it meant she would not be able to come home because she would be seen as too experienced.

Venting her fury on an online petition against the proposal, she branded the plan "absolutely ridiculous" and called on the minister to reconsider.

"At first, it was impossible to get a interview due to lack of experience and now the tables have turned and we are going to be punished for experience," Rachel wrote. "This is discrimination, and it needs to be taken seriously.

"Who would you rather have teach your children? Someone who has worked tirelessly in a variety of schools and with a range of year groups, gaining valuable training and experience along the way... or someone who has just stepped out of university? I would love to come home to start a family, but what chance do I now have of securing work?

"It is the most disheartening thing to feel like you are essentially stuck overseas because of this. Please [Mr O'Dowd] reconsider this scheme."

Almost 2,000 people have signed the online petition against the proposed initiative, which is designed to help new teachers get a job. It would also allow teachers to retire at 55, but schools would have to replace the retiring staff member with someone who has graduated in the past three years.

The petition against the employment shake-up reads: "This sees experienced, dedicated teachers who have not had job security, a sense of self-worth or steady income denied the chance to even apply.

"This is where we need your help. We want Mr O'Dowd to see that we live in a fair society where equality of opportunity is granted to all teachers.

"We're not looking for preferential treatment, just the opportunity to use our experience to help support and benefit your children in our shared future."

Other teachers to condemn the policy online included Catriona Bradley, from Derry, who has been teaching for 10 years, mostly at one school.

She said Mr O'Dowd's plans meant that if a new job was to come up in future, she would not be able to apply for it.

The Department of Education said that while teachers who qualified in the past three years would be eligible to apply for new positions, it was "continuing to explore whether we can go beyond this three-year period and still achieve the stated aims of the scheme".

"Further work will be carried out in the new year to finalise the cohort who will be eligible," a spokeswoman added.

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