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Substitute teacher welcomes £3.5m fund but says more support needed


Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

A substitute teacher has said that the Education Minister's £3.5m injection of financial support will help prop up the backbone of the sector -­ but more will be needed if school closures continue.

The financial support fund will cover the current period of lockdown.

But with uncertainty remaining over the viability of schools reopening in the middle of February, the prospect of a further spell on the sidelines is on the horizon.

"It's been a long, hard, difficult year," said Annelies Taylor, who has provided sub teaching services in both primary and post primary schools around Belfast.

"This package from the Minister is most welcome, but honestly we're going to need something more."

There remains a sense of hopelessness amongst sub-teachers, she warned.

Ms Taylor added: "For a lot of younger teachers it's the only way to get experience and for most subs it is their only source of income.

"It will still take another month before we see any financial benefit.

"I know sub teaching colleagues who are just living day to day, doing what they can to survive. It's an extremely precarious position to be in."

Announcing the extra £3.5m scheme, Education Minister Peter Weir said he was fully aware of the significant impact the closures due to the Covid-19 emergency are continuing to have.

"Substitute teachers in Northern Ireland are a unique group of staff, and the education sector depends on these individuals to be available to cover for absences of permanent teachers," Mr Weir added.

"Their income stopped abruptly when schools were instructed to close to pupils except for vulnerable children and those of key workers, and it is only right that they are not disadvantaged when so many other workers have been able to access the UK-wide furlough scheme."

The scheme has been welcomed by teaching union NASUWT, who said it was important to acknowledge when the Minister gets things right.

"Putting this scheme in place sends an important signal that substitute teacher's concerns are being listened to," said NASUWT official Justin McCamphill.

"It is important that eligible substitute teachers act quickly to apply for the scheme which will be open for applications from January 22 to 29, with payments expected in March."

The Education Minister has also outlined a £1m boost to support outdoor residential and educational centres.

Belfast Telegraph