Soapbox: The Newly Qualified Teachers Scheme is blind to fate of experienced part time teachers…

Catriona Concannon is the chairperson of the “Equal Rights for all” teacher’s group. Here she responds to Hugh Brown’s soapbox lauding the Minister of Education for his  Newly Qualified Teachers Scheme aimed at creating new teaching jobs for Northern Ireland’s newly qualified teachers.

On the 18th of December 2015, after the education committee had recessed for Christmas, the Education Minister for Northern Ireland, John O’Dowd, released to BBC NI, plans to “create” 500 jobs by replacing teachers over the age of 55 with “recently qualified teachers”. Whilst this in principle is a good scheme, there are many issues that need to be addressed.

Firstly, there are 2274 teachers ineligible to apply. This is a significant number of qualified and experienced professionals, with the skills and experience to lead our education system forward. The minister is a member of a party that promotes equality, but this scheme clearly flies in the face of that claim, directly discriminating against those who have been teaching three years or more.

According to DENI officials, using GTCNI figures, the scheme is justifiable as under 24s are underrepresented in the teaching workforce. Of course they are, the earliest they can graduate is age 22, so therefore there are almost half of them, compared to the 25-30 age bracket. Secondly, the figures used by DENI to justify this discrimination regard any teacher working more than one term in a school as “employed” for that year.

By those standards I have been employed throughout my career, however for ten years I have not been entitled to sick pay (since January 2016 this has changed thankfully), I have to save every year in order to pay my mortgage in the summer months and I spend the spring and summer months in extreme anxiety, worrying that I will not gain employment in  the next school year.

There are many inaccurate claims surrounding this scheme, from the Education Minister and DENI themselves, as well as contributors to this site. Firstly it was claimed that the Unions brought the scheme to the minister. This is partly true. INTO agreed that they brought the scheme to the minister several years ago, however they did not include the three year restriction, in fact:

“Extending the eligibility criteria for the scheme is a priority for INTO. INTO continues to press the Department of Education encompass as many teachers, currently not in full time teaching employment, as possible” 

Previous to INTO’s bulletin being published NASUWT released their own reaction:

“The NASUWT had no advance knowledge of the announcement of the Scheme made by the Minister on 18 December, before the Union had had the opportunity to consider the final proposal. The NASUWT has written to Education Minister John O’Dowd requesting that he extends the eligibility criteria of the Scheme to include any teacher who has not been able to secure a permanent contract since qualifying” 

I did not go into teaching for the benefits, pay or holidays, as clearly I have not benefited from any of these and ten years later I am still dedicated to my profession. In fact, to me it is a vocation. I love my job, I cherish the time I spend daily with every child under my care.

I spend hours after school providing after school activities, as I enjoy it as much as the children.

I spend many hours training and keeping myself up to date with modern teaching techniques, but the most important thing I have learned is the best practice from watching my amazing colleagues teaching around me.

The Minister and his Department use the terminology to ‘refresh the workforce’ as a legal objective or justification. 

Cleverly crafted process can no doubt be put in place to give the illusion of a ‘legitimate aim’ in the eyes of the law to explain away discrimination.  All this effort will of course be funded from the already overstretched public purse the scheme aims to alleviate pressures from.

But of course what the Minister and his Department have overlooked is the fact that any court of law charged with investigating this case will not accept blindly the convenient statistics they have used to suggest there is credibility to the proposal. 

Indeed when the statistics used were presented to the Education Committee nobody was duped.  The scheme is based on material evidence that is in conflict with common sense, and the heavy weight of alternative information readily available to the Department.


  • whatif1984true

    Can you tell us how many teachers retire/leave teaching each year and how many graduate from st marys/stranmillis?
    Regarding salaries, does a temporary teacher not have the choice to have their salary for a year paid over 10 months or 12 months (my partner did). The amount paid is the same whichever choice is made.
    Schools do not usually recruit for the new school year the day before it starts.
    Commonsense is remarkably uncommon in politics otherwise why would we have 2 universities in the same SMALL city and 2 teacher training colleges within minutes of each other.

  • Barry Corrigan

    Would it be an option for teachers to drop down in the pay scale in order to qualify for a job?

  • Catriona Marie C

    That has been mentioned by some, however it’s not possible according to DENI

  • Its remarkable that every time teaching is mentioned that someone has to bring up the training colleges but fail to mention that,

    A) St Marys of them doesn’t want to merge.

    B) Stranmillis was prevented from merging with Queens by the DUP/Orange Order (despite the deal being 99% done) because they wanted St Marys to close first.

    C) DO we then discount all those PGCE courses offered by UU, Queens and Open University? I could 5 places to train as a teacher, not 2. Though when people talk about 2 they actually mean St Marys.

    Regardless if there is one or two teacher training colleges, what difference would it make? those people who want to be teachers will simply go down south or go over seas to get a degree, making the exact number of teachers looking a job the same. The assumption that getting rid of 2 universities (or just St Marys) and the whole problem of teacher training magically goes away is idiotic.

  • whatif1984true

    The point is that there is oversupply of graduate teachers and it is the government which can control this. Why is there a limit on the number of medical undergraduates (hugely oversubscribed faculty and no shortage of suitably qualified applicants) yet we have a shortage of doctors.

  • chrisjones2

    Seek legal advice and then seek JR. Its the only way to address this nonsense

  • Kevin Breslin

    Getting any job is dependent on skills and wills.

    Any teacher who been out of work will naturally have their will destroyed a little, so there is already a natural advantage towards newly qualified teachers. Surely if they have the determination to get back into teacher they can be asked where’s the determination to remain in teaching if they slip any.

    What other alternatives do they have, they could perhaps remain educators in training programs for small companies with a little skills development, but far more likely they are probably going to get sucked into the world of politics instead.

    Also, why are newly qualified teachers not good enough to take advantage of this natural handicap the experienced out of teaching teacher has, why does the system not compensate for the necessary learning curve rather than trying to fix the whole thing with quotas?

  • CB

    This isn’t ‘in principle a good scheme’ from the point of view of anyone other than the direct beneficiaries and is a gross waste of resources. It needs to be scrapped, not tinkered at the edges.