Ex-teachers back in class as graduates struggle to get jobs
More than 150 retired teachers have been drafted back into schools in the past three years while graduates struggle for jobs.
The Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday how less than a third of new teachers have secured long-term work, with just 141 of 445 graduates employed on a permanent or significant temporary basis during the past year.
Now it has emerged dozens of potential jobs were filled by teachers who took early retirement, only to end up back at desks.
In the three years to last April, a total of 157 retired teachers took up temporary teaching positions.
The details emerged after an Assembly question from DUP MLA Alex Easton.
The answer by Education Minister John O'Dowd did not include voluntary grammar schools, so the total may be higher.
In the 12 months to April 2015, a total of 51 teachers returned to the classroom after retiring.
That was broadly similar to 2013/14 and 2012/13, where the total was 52 and 54 respectively.
Figures reported by this newspaper yesterday showed the number of graduates finding work had fallen steadily since 2013.
In 2013/14, 58% of graduates - 273 of 469 - were in employment on a permanent or "significant temporary" basis. In the past 12 months, this fell to 32%.
Northern Ireland's biggest locally-based teaching union, the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU), warned morale was at an all-time low and schools could lose a generation of young teaching talent.
"If this is allowed to happen, it will be our pupils who will suffer," said UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan. "If teaching is to continue to attract the cream of undergraduates, it must be seen as a viable profession.
"The announcement of £33m funding for the Investing in the Teaching Workforce scheme is enabling schools to reduce their costs by replacing teachers eligible for premature retirement and who want to retire with newly-qualified teachers. This is something on which we worked closely with the minister, and this lifeline hasn't come a moment too soon."
Ms Hall Callaghan also warned young teachers were being driven away from the profession.
"Without further action to address the situation, we still risk losing these highly-motivated young people from the profession - young people with a vocation who are forced to leave Northern Ireland to look for posts elsewhere or to pursue other career avenues because of the lack of prospects for employment here in Northern Ireland," she said.
The Department of Education referred to guidance issued in 2011 about the use of retired teachers.
At the time it voiced concern at the practice of schools employing such staff. "The department has long recommended that employers give preference to newly qualified or experienced non-retired teachers seeking to return to employment when filling vacancies, including those of a temporary nature," the guidelines stated.