Less than one in 10 newly-qualified teachers secured a job in Northern Ireland as employment rates plummeted to a record low.
Fears have been growing that too many teachers are being trained despite falling pupil numbers, 85,000 empty desks in schools, education budgets having been slashed and hundreds of redundancies.
Latest figures show 1,163 Northern Ireland teachers graduated from training institutions across the UK, but just 94, or 8%, found a permanent teaching job here.
It comes as hundreds more newly-qualified teachers prepare to flood into the beleaguered employment market.
Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig, who raised the plight of newly-qualified teachers in the Assembly last September, described the situation as a “mess”.
“It is very sad that a year since the Assembly debated the issue of how many newly-qualified teachers are being put into the Northern Ireland system — despite the low number of teaching jobs available — that neither the Department of Education nor the Department for Employment and Learning has listened.
“We are still in a situation where hundreds of teachers are being trained when really there are only dozens of jobs available.”
Department of Education and Department for Employment and Learning statistics show that in 2010/11, 679 teachers graduated from Northern Ireland’s five teaching institutions, but just 54 secured a permanent teaching post.
Another 520 Northern Ireland students graduated the same year from teacher training providers in England, Scotland and Wales, with 39 gaining employment in a Northern Ireland school — although some of those newly-qualified teachers could have remained in Britain for work.
That same year, more than 300 teachers were made redundant here. An analysis of teacher education graduates for Northern Ireland shows recruitment rates for newly-qualified teachers have never been lower.
Since 2004 they have steadily declined from 88% to 78% in 2006 to 59% in 2008, down to 36% in 2010 and to 23% in 2011, according to the General Teaching Council Northern Ireland (GTCNI).
Last year there were 28,044 teachers on the GTCNI’s register and 20,393 are employed — meaning that one in three teachers are not employed.
Mark Langhammer, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Each year, our teacher training institutes produce a very high quality cadre of teachers.
“Local teachers can and do travel and relocate to find work.
“That said, ATL is of the view that we do not need five institutions to deliver teacher training, and support institutional rationalisation coupled with enhanced sharing of estate, resources, and good practice.”
Mr Craig, who also sits on the education committee and Laurehill Community College’s board of governors, agrees.
“We can’t continue to sustain training teachers when the demand is not there,” he said.
“I have been contacted by a lot of teachers who are disappointed because they can’t get a job. I cannot understand why the departments have not... taken some radical decisions on this issue.”
There are five teacher training providers in Northern Ireland: Stranmillis University College, St Mary’s University College, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Ulster and The Open University. The Department of Education this month reduced the number of annual places from 663 to 600. A Department for Employment and Learning review of teacher training provision is ongoing.
By Liam Clarke
Education and Learning Minister Stephen Farry has warned that Northern Ireland is training too many teachers.
He believes the answer is to merge training institutions or encourage them to share facilities on non-denominational lines.
“We would like to see a much more integrated system of teacher training in Northern Ireland,” the minister (right) said. He suggested the system should be replaced by one where teachers could be trained together for all schools.
“We may well have different sectors in the schools system but it does not follow that teachers need to be educated separately. Any teacher professionally trained must be capable of teaching in any environment irrespective of his or her own background and belief.”
Five institutions train teachers in Northern Ireland.
They are St Mary’s College (with a Catholic ethos), Stranmillis College, Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and the Open University.
At present the two universities have a religiously mixed intake of trainee teachers, and the intake at Stranmillis was 32% Catholic and 65% Protestant last year. But 99% of students who enrolled at St Mary’s were Catholic. The overall intake was 55% Catholic and 38% Protestant.
At present only St Mary’s can offer a Certificate of Catholic Education, necessary to teach in Catholic schools, as part of its curriculum.
This, Minister Farry argued, gives St Mary’s students an advantage because they were qualified to apply for jobs in all schools.
“We will be looking at that in the second stage of the teacher training review” he said.
A review of St Mary’s and Stranmillis is due at the end of June.
One possible measure would be to merge Stranmillis with Queen’s. Another would be to merge it with St Marys or to encourage “use of facilities and shared teaching”.
He argued St Mary’s and Stranmillis had moved beyond teacher training in order to remain viable.
He said: “We are not here to protect the interests of institutions. We are here to train teachers for the future education system of Northern Ireland.”
The Department of Education, held by Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd, sets the number of teacher training places while DEL funds them. Mr O’Dowd cut places in the two universities by 20% while preserving the numbers at St Mary’s and Stranmillis. Open University places were also preserved.
Case Study: Aaron Davis
Aaron Davis has been scanning Belfast Telegraph’s Jobfinder since January looking for teaching jobs — three have been advertised.
This week he finished four years of teacher training at Stranmillis College but knows the odds of securing a job in his chosen profession are stacked against him.
The 22-year-old from Enniskillen has already resigned himself to the fact that he will not be teaching in his native Fermanagh because of the scarcity of jobs in his chosen field of a post-primary technology and design teacher.
Mr Davis, a member of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, said: “I have been flat-out looking for jobs but only three posts have been advertised.
“There are seven one-year intern posts at Stranmillis but as there are 100 people due to graduate there’s a seven in 100 chance of getting one.
“I am in the process of registering with the General Teaching Council Northern Ireland and putting my name on the Northern Ireland substitute teachers’ register.
“It is depressing. Ten years ago the majority of graduates were walking into jobs, and any jobs that come up now tend to ask for experience.”
But Mr Davis has no regrets.
He said: “My parents were very apprehensive about me coming to Stranmillis because there were so few jobs but I have always wanted to be a teacher, so I have no regrets. I want to pass on to other pupils that belief my teachers had in me.”