Belfast Telegraph

Scheme to get jobs for up to 120 new teachers in Northern Ireland 'discriminatory', court hears

By Alan Erwin

A scheme aimed at securing jobs for up to 120 newly-qualified teachers in Northern Ireland is discriminatory, the High Court heard today.

Lawyers for a Strabane man excluded because of his greater experience claimed it was a cost-saving programme that should be quashed.

Dylan Early is challenging the Investing in the Teaching Workforce initiative set up to enable teachers over the age of 55 to take early retirement.

Under the plans only those who graduated since 2012 would be eligible to replace them.

Mr Early, 36, who qualified as teacher at least eight years ago, is seeking to judicially review the Department of Education over the programme.

The scheme was suspended earlier this year following the commencement of legal action.

It had originally been announced in 2015 by then Education Minister John O'Dowd, and was then given the green light by his successor, Peter Weir.

However, in court today Mr Early's legal team challenged the legality of its terms.

Barrister Ciaran White argued: "The scheme itself is founded upon a need and a desire to save costs."

He told Mr Justice Colton that teachers on a higher pay scale would become candidates for jobs if it had been extended to those, like his client, who qualified before 2012.

Attorney General John Larkin QC, representing the Department, countered that the scheme was rational and time-limited.

He also contended that it was a reasonable attempt to refresh the workforce.

Judgment was reserved following submissions.

Outside court Mr Early's solicitor, John MacManus of John Fahy and Company, explained the motivation behind the case.

"My client has been unable to secure a full-time post, and this scheme discriminates against him on the basis of his age and experience.

"We are challenging the lawfulness of the scheme because we contend that it's cost-saving and doesn't take into consideration the particular circumstances of a vast cohort of people like Mr Early who are suitably qualified but unable to apply."

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