21/09/2011

O'Dowd Hits Back On Classroom Jobs

Fears over an apparent lack of job opportunities for newly qualified teachers have been in focus this week.

It has been claimed that as many as 95% of new teachers are unable to secure full time jobs.

That's according to a DUP MLA who underlined the claim when MLAs debated the concerns over the number of new teachers at Stormont.

The party's Jonathan Craig, who has proposed the motion, said that very few of those who qualified last year found full time employment.

Now, the NI Education Minister, John O'Dowd - who is this week to step up to the post of Deputy First Minister as well - has responded to the concerns over employment prospects.

Speaking after the debate on the issue in the Assembly on Tuesday, the Minister said: "I take very seriously the issue of employment prospects for newly qualified teachers and want to ensure that they are afforded every opportunity to obtain teaching positions.

"My Department has taken a number of steps in recent years to encourage Boards of Governors and employing authorities to employ newly qualified teachers where possible, including implementation of robust measures to disincentivise schools from offering substitute teaching opportunities to prematurely retired teachers.

"These steps have helped reduce the number of temporary days worked by prematurely retired teachers by over one third since 2008/09."

Recession

The Sinn Fein Minister however admitted: "Whilst I want to maximise the opportunities for newly qualified teachers here, it is important to remember that we are faced with economic challenges that are unprecedented in living memory.

"Every profession, not just teaching, is experiencing increased competition for jobs.

"Teachers, as highly trained professionals, possess skills and attributes that they can use in many jobs and I would therefore encourage them to be flexible in the choices they make as they enter the jobs market.

"As with many careers, the right vacancy may not arise immediately upon graduation, but the chances of employment as a teacher are far from poor in the longer term, with some 76% of teachers who graduated in 2006 now employed in a teaching post on either a permanent or significant temporary basis."

Concluding, Mr O'Dowd said: "Teaching is a hugely important profession that has a significant impact on our society, preparing our young people for the challenges that lie ahead."

In response to the DUP motion which called on the Assembly to note with concern the number of newly qualified teachers leaving full-time study without employment or with little prospect of it, he concluded: "It remains as popular as ever as a career choice and I am committed to ensuring that our local education institutions continue to produce the high quality teaching professionals that they have done for many years."

(BMcC/GK)

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