Controversial teachers' jobs scheme could open to all... but only for a year
Education Minister John O'Dowd has indicated he is prepared to open a controversial scheme to replace retiring teachers with those with less than three years' experience to all in the profession.
However, he warned that if the programme was expanded, it would last just a year.
The £33m Investing in the Teaching Workforce scheme is designed to allow teachers to retire from the age of 55 and is meant to help graduates secure permanent jobs.
But teachers with more than three years' experience - many of whom have been relying on temporary jobs since qualifying - claimed they were being discriminated against.
Mr O'Dowd said he would take the new proposal to the Executive, but added: "If I'm able to secure agreement - and it is a big if - this scheme will not run again. It will be a one-off because the Executive will have to cut other services.
"(Alternatively) the scheme can run as intended, with the job opportunities open to those teachers who have qualified most recently."
The minister, who made the comments in response to an Assembly Question by DUP MLA Jonathan Craig, said teaching unions brought forward the idea for the scheme in 2012 but that his department lacked the funds to implement it until this year.
"This scheme will provide up to an additional 500 teaching job opportunities which would not otherwise exist," he added.
"In addition to these new jobs, in each of the last five years there have been in the region of 500 permanent teaching posts and in excess of 250 meaningful temporary teaching posts, which are jobs of six months or longer.
"However, for these 750 job opportunities, teachers with the least experience have often been sifted out before interview, effectively eliminating them from these opportunities. Where is the equality for them? Who speaks for them?"
Mr O'Dowd also claimed that opening up the scheme to all would have the effect of failing to freshen up the workforce, would not provide job opportunities for those who have experienced the greatest difficulty in securing meaningful employment and would not save any money.
"In fact it will cost the public purse an additional substantial amount of money, on top of the £33m already secured to fund the scheme," the Education Minister told MLAs.