Northern Ireland

Teacher pay offer could reverse ‘shocking brain drain’ in the profession, says union

Teacher retention will be high on the agenda at the UTU conference in the wake of the current pay offer
Teacher retention will be high on the agenda at the UTU conference in the wake of the current pay offer (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The recent pay offer for newly qualified teachers in Northern Ireland could potentially reverse the “shocking brain drain” in the profession, a teaching union conference will hear.

A new survey by the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) reveals that up to 80% of teaching graduates quit the north last year.

Delegates will today come together for the union’s annual conference in Limavady.

Jacquie White, UTU general secretary, said teacher retention will be high on the agenda in the wake of the current pay offer.

It was revealed earlier this week that newly qualified teachers could see their starting salary increase by 24% under a pay offer outlined by education minister Paul Givan.

Education Minister Paul Givan during his visit to  Gaelscoil Aodha Rua who made  his first visit to an Irish language school as Minister.
Education Minister Paul Givan. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

The proposed settlement will see new teachers in the north receive a starting salary of £30,000, while current teachers could also see their pay increase by 10%.

Ms White will today tell delegates: “We believe as many as 80% of graduates from teaching training colleges here quit Northern Ireland last year as a result of poor pay and conditions.

“Our education system has been on a cliff edge as it has haemorrhaged its best talent to better paid jobs in GB, Ireland and abroad leaving key teaching roles here unfilled and children short changed.

“This new pay deal would raise starter teachers’ salaries by around 24% and see pay scales move into line with those elsewhere in GB.”

Jacquie White from the Ulster Teachers’ Union
Jacquie White from the Ulster Teachers’ Union

Ms White said the numbers of teaching graduates leaving Northern Ireland once they qualify has “been truly shocking”.

She said around 80% of last year’s cohort from St Mary’s Teacher Training College and Stranmillis College are believed to have left to work elsewhere.

“It’s taken a generation to build up again from the brain drain caused by the Troubles yet now it’s an economic war which has been driving away our best talent,” she said.

“Schools have been struggling increasingly to fill core teaching posts like science, technology, English and home economics and the result is that students are being taught by teachers who aren’t specialists in these areas.

“Hopefully now with a new pay deal we will see our profession return to its rightful status as a top graduate career option, for without that we risk a degradation of our education system from which it would be difficult to return.

“Teachers’ pay though is just one issue.

“To put it bluntly, schools are under-funded in Northern Ireland and have been for some time.

“The result is increased class sizes, increased pupil to teacher ratios, decreased subject choice, narrowed curriculum and an acute shortage of available supply teachers.”

She added that now an education minister was in place at Stormont, “we hope to see our children back at the heart of the decisions”.

“What we need is strong, focussed leadership which will have at its heart the very best interests of all our children and their teachers,” she said.