Soapbox: Why O’Dowd’s ‘Newly Qualified Teachers Scheme’ is justified…

Hugh Brown is Derry based reader, who argues there is huge benefit in John O’Dowd’s plan to take 500 teachers out of the system to make room for 500 new ones. 

“You’ll always get a job if you’re a teacher!” Was a watchword many years ago. Not now. Back then it ensured a pension. It ensured job security; but society has changed rapidly and it continues apace.

For over 20 years students have come through the North’s first class education system to become teachers; with many of them today still working within the system. But is it time for them to move on?

There has been unease over Education Minister John O’ Dowds proposed move to take 500 teachers out of the education sphere, and replace them with 500 newly qualified teachers – without job losses.

Eligibility for voluntary redundancy is restrict to those aged over 55 – of which there are approximately 2350 – who effectively retire will have full access to pensions.

To do this Mr O’Dowd will access money set aside under the Voluntary Exit Scheme courtesy of a change to the original system in which monies would only become available if the post was closed.

Mr O’Dowd’s proposal is backed by the teachers union, and will ensure that the teaching workforce is refreshed over two years and in the process will create the job space for 1000 new teachers.

£47 million has been allocated to the Department of Education for the teachers severance scheme in the 2016/17 budget and £14 million of this is to be spent on voluntary redundancy, and £33 million to instate new teachers.

Drawing down this money with the Tory Government attacking public services, was a shrewd move as the Department of Education has been hit financially and needs to restructure to protect front-line services, and what is more front-line than our teachers?

The idea of zero job losses appeals to many, and the fact that 1000 newly qualified teachers, with new skills are taking over the posts can only be welcomed – but not by all.

The opponents of the Newly Qualified Teachers Scheme, mainly those who qualified over 3 years ago, say that that the Education Minister is guilty of discrimination. I cant agree.

When this current scheme ends, these teachers are will be entitled to apply for existing jobs vacated by those departing. A degree isn’t a right of passage into any line of work, is a PGCE?

This comes down to cold, hard figures in austere times in an over populated skills base that continues to grow yearly.

But it has to be absolutely clear; the Education Minster has not set the 3 year qualification stipulation in stone (something the media forget to report). His department are still considering if 3 years is enough in order to fill the vacancies left by the Voluntary Exit Scheme.

A petition exists that calls for Mr O’Dowd to ensure teachers have “self worth” and “job security”. But 1000 new jobs covers this, does it not?

What the petition doesn’t address is what the education minster should do to ensure their demands are met?

It also has no party backing as presumably they see the teacher issue as a hot potato and cant table a viable alternative?

The figures the Education Minister is looking at are payscales.  Teachers who have graduated under 3 years ago will be placed lower on the pay-scale than a teacher who has graduated over 3 years ago. The majority of older teachers will be on on the highest grade.

To sum up: older teachers take voluntary redundancies and are replaced by newly qualified teachers on a lower wage with modern skills, to educate our children. This in turn equates to department savings (for more teachers after 2 years?) and modern teaching techniques.

This scheme is what politics is all about; making hard decisions to advance society. This isn’t about discrimination, this is about realisation.

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