Further financial support totalling £3.25 million has been announced by the Education Minister to support substitute teachers during the current six week lockdown.
With many schools remaining closed and others only open for vulnerable children and those of key workers, substitute teachers have been unable to secure work.
Peter Weir said he was fully aware of the significant impact the closures due to the pandemic are continuing to have on our pupils, teaching and non-teaching staff.
“The issue of funding for substitute teachers who have lost the opportunity to work in schools during the current six-week period of school closures is one that I, and my Department, have been working hard to resolve,” the Minister said.
“I am pleased to announce that we will be re-introducing the income support scheme for substitute teachers.
“The estimated total cost of the scheme is around £3.25m.
“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,” he said.
“This will be welcome news to those staff for whom substitute teaching has been their regular source of income.
“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.”
Schools will remain closed to most pupils until the end of the half term break in February.
The minister is due to meet with Health Minister Robin Swann in the next two days to discuss the current health situation, with a decision on whether a further school closure is necessary to be made by the NI Executive next week.
The scheme has been welcomed by teaching union NASUWT who said it will provide much needed relief.
“The NASUWT commends the Minister and Department for acting swiftly to put this scheme in place,” said Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary.
“The scheme is identical to that which ran during the April to June period.
“Thousands of substitute teachers have lost out on the opportunity to work through the current lockdown.
“The hard reality is that schools simply could not function without these teachers,” he said.
“The NASUWT will continue to fight for our substitute teacher members, ensuring that the interests of day-to-day substitute teachers are protected between now and the eventual phased reopening of schools beyond the provision for key workers and vulnerable children.”
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, 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.
“It is important that eligible substitute teachers act quickly to apply for the scheme which will be open for applications from 22 to 29 January 2021 with payments expected in March 2021.”