Northern Ireland news

Skills report fails to take account of teachers moving for jobs

The report suggested Northern Ireland is training too many teachers for the jobs market

A REPORT suggesting too many teachers are being trained fails to consider that classroom staff will leave the north for work, it has been claimed.

The Northern Ireland Skills Barometer estimated an oversupply of 140 teachers each year for the next decade.

The report identified and assessed current and future skills needs of the Northern Ireland economy.

The most oversupplied subjects were "training teachers and academic studies in education".

The Department of Education determines the number of students admitted to teacher training courses. For 2019/20, there will be 580 across four institutions.

Experts noted the new report appeared to treat Northern Ireland as a closed system for teacher employment.

While there might not be jobs at `home' to cater for everyone, several are employed each year in Britain, the Republic and Middle East.

The report said the subjects forecast to be predominantly under-supplied were engineering and technology, maths and computer sciences and physical and environmental sciences.

It is estimated the economy will require an additional 330 engineering and technology graduates each year.

"In contrast, the low growth in public sector spending and the likely lower levels of recruitment will influence the demand for skills in subject areas popular across the public services," it added.

"These include subjects such as education and social studies...the top two most oversupplied subjects being training teachers and academic studies in education.

"An important point to note is that if a subject area is over-supplied, it does not necessarily mean that a young person should not study in that subject area, particularly if they have a strong interest or aptitude."

NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland Justin McCamphill said it was "too simplistic" to say too many teachers were being trained.

"The report does not take account of the movement of teachers across the UK and to a lesser extent north-south. Reducing the number of training places would not deal with the problem if young people were to simply train abroad and then seek employment at home," he said.

"In addition the report fails to take account of demographic changes affecting our schools. In 2010, we had 329,500 children. We now have 340,000. In 2010, there were 20,136 teachers, but now there are only 19,867. If we had kept the ratios the same there would be 20,781 teachers now. The problem, therefore, is not that we are training too many teachers but that we have been making teachers redundant in schools.

"At least 900 teachers are needed."

Jacquie White, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers's Union, said the system was under-resourced.

"If Northern Ireland schools were adequately funded and staffed and our children receiving the education they deserve with the resources to match this would not be an issue," she said.

"There is no reason for us to have an over-supply of teachers when we have schools already struggling to cope with their existing workload, not to mention a population growth which will increase school population in coming years.

"We have over-crowded classrooms; we have children with additional educational, behavioural and emotional needs losing their classroom assistants because schools can't afford them and we have pre-school facilities being run by people who are not qualified teachers. There is no over-supply of teachers, but a woeful and shameful under supply of resources."

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