Education news

Peter Weir announces job scheme for out-of-work teachers

Up to 120 older teachers will retire and be replaced by younger staff by next year

A PLAN to replace older teachers with younger out-of-work staff will launch this year - but the funding is considerably smaller than first promised.

The initiative to enable those aged 55-plus to retire early and free up work for recently-qualified teachers will start in September.

The Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme was first announced last December and it was intended that it would launch in the spring.

Plans were delayed, however, following concerns about the criteria.

Former education minister John O'Dowd said up to 500 older teachers would leave the classroom and make way for younger staff.

More than £33 million was allocated by the Executive to "re-shape the teaching workforce as part of a dual approach to a strategic cost reduction scheme for schools".

Some staff criticised the plan, saying they would lose out because they earned their teaching degrees more than three years ago.

Now, new education minister Peter Weir has confirmed that a total of £8m is being made available in 2016/17.

The scheme will operate as a pilot, and dependent upon the uptake and success, consideration will be given to submitting a bid to the Public Sector Transformation Fund for it to continue in 2017/18.

Mr Weir said it was clear that new and recently-qualified teachers had experienced the greatest difficulty in finding meaningful posts.

He said he had time to consider all concerns raised and explore further options in relation to the criteria.

On that basis, he has decided that the scheme will be extended to include graduates who have qualified since 2012.

It is estimated that up to 120 teachers aged 55-plus will, at their own request, be secured for release from the profession by March 31 2017.

However, the timing of their release will be subject to the recruitment of a recently-qualified teacher and the circumstances for each school.

"This is very good news for those recently-graduated teachers who are unable to find permanent teaching positions. This scheme will help to refresh the teaching workforce and share employment opportunities fairly between the generations," Mr Weir said.

"Whilst I realise that this will be disappointing for graduates who are outside the criteria, without this scheme these employment opportunities would not exist."

The INTO union welcomed the announcement.

"We are pleased that the scheme is being enacted and are looking forward to seeing how it works in this pilot year," said northern secretary Gerry Murphy.

"We have every expectation that it will run again in the following years."

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