Jobs for young teachers have `come at the right time'
A scheme to create jobs for younger teachers has come at the right time with morale at an all-time low, a union leader has said.
Education minister John O'Dowd has approved a £33.1million investment which will see hundreds of recently qualified teachers employed in schools.
Since 2013/14, more than 2,000 graduates have registered with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland, of which it is understood about 1,400 do not yet hold a permanent teaching position in a grant-aided school.
The new scheme will see up to 500 older teachers making way for younger staff. Mr O'Dowd said the benefits of refreshing the workforce and providing employment opportunities for recently qualified teachers, and the resulting boost to the economy, could not be underestimated.
Experienced teachers have hit out the scheme, however, saying many will lose out because they earned their teaching degrees more than three years ago.
A group calling itself N Ireland Teachers Campaigning for Experience Equality has started an online petition. It said experienced teachers would be denied the opportunity to apply for permanent jobs.
Unions are broadly supportive of the initiative.
Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union said: "This is something on which we have been working closely with the minister in a bid to resolve the potential looming crisis in classrooms.
"For too long some of our best and brightest newly qualified young teachers have been unable to gain employment. However, this funding will go some way towards alleviating that situation. It has not come a moment too soon with morale among young younger teachers who can't get permanent teaching jobs at an all-time low.
"Without action we risked losing a generation of highly motivated young people from the profession - young people with a vocation who are forced to pursue other career avenues because of the lack of prospects for employment here in Northern Ireland."
Ms Hall Callaghan added that the exit scheme for teachers aged 55 and over must be handled smoothly and efficiently.
"Every profession needs a balance of experience and new blood. That is especially true of teaching if our children are to benefit from the best possible educational experience," she said.
"Our profession must continue to attract - and retain - top calibre people who see teaching as a respected career choice which will deliver job satisfaction."