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Teachers set up protest group to fight new Stormont policy on jobs

By Rebecca Black

Published 09/01/2016

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

Outraged teachers have set up a protest group to oppose a Stormont plan to hand out 500 jobs to teachers with less than three years' experience.

They are in contact with the Equality Commission to seek advice about how to challenge the policy.

The Teaching Workforce Scheme announced by Education Minister John O'Dowd late last year aims to replace up to 500 older teaching staff with newly qualified teachers.

It proposes encouraging teachers over the age of 55 to retire early. In return, schools must replace the retiring member of staff with a teaches who has qualified in the past three years.

More than 5,000 teachers have signed an online petition against the move, and now a new group called Equality For All Teachers has been formed.

Spokesman Christopher Kerrigan has been employed in a series of temporary posts for five years across the north west and would be excluded from any of the new jobs.

He described permanent jobs in teaching as "like gold dust" and said he was incredulous that the Department of Education would propose discriminating against more experienced staff.

"I didn't think after five years I would still be in this position," he added. "We don't get paid until the summer outside our daily rate, so you are scrimping the pennies. You don't want to be doing that for the rest of your life. You can't get a mortgage, you can't even get finance on a car. Everything is on hold.

"It has become a massive mess, and at the minute we are very afraid how this will affect our lives and families.

"It also affects the children because they are talking about putting teachers in there who could be fantastic but will have little experience. I remember in my first job I needed guidance.

"If you have three young teachers in one department, the standard of education is going to fall down. That is logical. You don't become a teacher by training, but by teaching in the classroom."

He also revealed another one of the group's members had been working temporary jobs for 10 years, and seven-and-a-half years continuously at one school. But if a job comes up at that school she will not be able to apply for it thanks to the proposed scheme.

On Tuesday the education committee heard from department officials about the scheme. It was explained that fewer than 50% of teaching graduates find jobs within three years. More than 50% of teachers who graduated more than three years ago have found jobs, however the exact percentage has not yet been released.

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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