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Watchdog to quiz education official over bungled teacher redundancy scheme

By Rebecca Black

A senior Department of Education official is set to be ordered in front of a Stormont watchdog committee to answer questions over a bungled teacher redundancy scheme.

The education committee heard yesterday that some 50 teachers have been refused voluntary redundancy.

This has caused financial chaos in the schools where they taught, with budgets having to be rewritten to include the teachers that were thought to be leaving.

SDLP MLA Sean Rogers said he knew of some teachers who even had their leaving parties assuming they were going, before being told in July that they had been refused redundancy.

In total, £58m has been spent on the teacher redundancy scheme – twice the statutory rate.

The committee heard that 167 teachers had applied for redundancy.

Of this number, 103 were successful, 12 withdrew their application and at least 50 were unsuccessful. The department did not set aside enough funding to pay for all these redundancies.

In June, Education Minister John O'Dowd announced that funding had been found for payouts to 30 teachers that had previously been in doubt.

However, the education committee was most critical of the department's poor communication with the five boards, who employ the teachers, and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.

The Belfast Telegraph has seen minutes of a meeting between the department and the managing authorities in which an official "considered there had been a breakdown of communication between DE (Department of Education) and the employing authorities, which should have been addressed".

Part of the poor communication concerned changing the criteria in the redundancy scheme which left CCMS, the boards and schools in confusion.

Education committee chairman Mervyn Storey said this had caused chaos in school budgets.

"Schools had done their financial planning according to which teachers were getting out, then suddenly the teachers are not getting out," he said.

"I blame the departments for the hames they made of this."

Mr Rogers proposed that a department official be asked to appear before the committee so that questions could be asked to prevent another similar situation emerging.

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan backed this and it was agreed by the committee.

Story so far

Some 167 teachers across Northern Ireland applied for a voluntary redundancy scheme as schools battled to cope with budget cuts.

In a move costing £58m, 103 teachers were allowed redundancy and 12 withdrew their applications. Around 50 were notified in July that their application had been refused and are now back teaching at schools.

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