Newly Qualified Teachers

Private Members’ Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 20th September 2011.

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Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker 3:00 pm, 20th September 2011

The Business Committee has agreed to allow up to one hour and 30 minutes for the debate. The proposer will have 10 minutes to propose the motion and 10 minutes to make a winding-up speech. All other Members will have five minutes.

Photo of Jonathan Craig Jonathan Craig DUP

I beg to move

That this Assembly notes with concern the number of newly qualified teachers leaving full-time study without employment, or with little prospect of it; and calls on the Minister of Education, in conjunction with the Minister for Employment and Learning, to address the situation.

I want to clarify one issue before we start. Statements have been put out questioning the accuracy of some of the figures quoted earlier today. I remind the House that I was quoting figures that were supplied under AQW 777/11-15 in answer to a question from Mr Alex Easton. Those figures were signed off by no less than the deputy First Minister or Acting deputy First Minister — I am not quite sure of his title — our present Minister of Education, Mr O’Dowd. I want that clarified, Mr Speaker. There may be a question as to whether a Member of the House was misled or whether the Minister was misled regarding that issue.

Teaching used to be viewed as a safe job; one with security, good career prospects and rewards.

A Member:

Good holidays.

Photo of Jonathan Craig Jonathan Craig DUP

Good holidays; I agree. There are a few former teachers in the Chamber, and one is a Government Minister. It is, however, no longer the case that teaching is a safe job. In June this year, the Education Minister, Mr O’Dowd, responded to reports of an increase in teacher redundancies. Without doubt, many of those redundancies have been ushered in by the cutbacks in our block grant after the publication of the comprehensive spending review by Her Majesty’s Government last October. That had a dramatic effect on public funds, not only in education.

As the axe has fallen on all Government Departments, it has obviously had an impact on education and library boards, which have less to spend on schools. That has impacted on the number of teachers that can be employed. The Minister’s statement that I referred to was in response to redundancies, which included teaching staff and classroom assistants. The majority of those redundancies were voluntary, but very few of those positions will be filled because there is no longer the money in the system to pay for them.

Earlier this year, the Public Accounts Committee demonstrated that the costs of providing substitute teachers had soared from £38 million in 2000 to £66 million in 2008. It also emerged that a large number of retired teachers were being re-employed through agencies to provide teaching cover in the classroom, for whatever reason. That poses problems for newly qualified teachers because, after graduation, many of them rely increasingly on agencies to secure work, albeit part time and temporary. That leaves a huge number of qualified teachers unemployed and questioning why they trained in the first place when they are likely to walk into a job that they could have had after their GCSEs, never mind A levels.

I know of many who spent many years training or without teaching work and have had to resort to jobs in the service sector or to look for something else to pay off the huge debt that they have found themselves in. Many young teachers have had a significant amount of money invested in them by the Government, which is ultimately wasted when they cannot secure jobs. The reason for the number of qualified teachers is down to the fact that, a number of years ago, we were crying out for teachers and could not get enough of them. Now, the tables have turned and a large number of teachers are left to claim unemployment benefit or work in a job for which they are well and truly overqualified, just to pay the bills.

A report issued by the Department of Education in 2006 found that a significant number of teaching posts went unfilled. They were in English, maths, science, home economics, technology and design, history and PE. Many of those are fields that are crucial to the economy and general skills of this country. Ironically, that report anticipated teacher shortages over time. However, the general view is that there are far too many qualified teachers trying to meet that demand. Statistics provided by the Department of Education in reply to an question for written answer show that the number of newly qualified teachers obtaining full-time permanent employment within one year of graduation is extremely low. This year, that figure fell to almost 5% from 11% in 2006-07. Furthermore, the number of teachers securing employment outside Northern Ireland is extremely low. That is very worrying, and I seek to highlight it. I urge the Minister of Education and the Minister for Employment and Learning to take note. We need action on all of that.

It is regrettable that the Department cannot match supply with demand. That is a major issue. Why, as a Government, are we continually training graduate teachers for jobs that, frankly, are not there? That is a huge waste of government resources and something that I appeal to the Minister to look into to get a much closer relationship between supply and demand in that field.

The other huge difficulty that teachers have when they apply for the few full-time jobs that exist is that of experience. That is incredibly difficult for new graduate teachers coming out of colleges. I appeal to the Minister to look at the system that is being piloted in Scotland, which guarantees almost a year’s full-time training in schools to, at least, give them one year’s experience in teaching. That would be a big help to new graduates in finding jobs.

That is not unique in other fields of industry. I went to the University of Ulster, and the course that I took, which was mechanical engineering, guaranteed one year spent in industry. The experience that I gained in that year was invaluable for finding employment. It was a great boost, and most of the graduates from my year got employment because of that bit of experience. I appeal to the Executive to have a close look at that.

I want to quote a few lines that have come in to me since this debate was mentioned. Here is a man whose two sons who have graduated from Stranmillis University College, and this letter maybe puts these real issues into perspective:

“One of the boys has been fortunate enough to have been employed for the past three years, even though those have been in three different schools. He has, for the first time, managed to secure a one-year contract in his fourth school this year, and he hopes that that will become permanent. The younger son graduated from Stranmillis in July of this year, and, unfortunately, he has not been able to secure any employment. He has managed to get three days as a substitute teacher since September”.

I will try not to be party political about this at all. That was about Stranmillis. I also have a letter from someone who went to St Mary’s University College:

“I am a qualified teacher that graduated from St Mary’s University College in 2005. I have not been able to secure a full-time post in that length of time”.

That is regrettable, and the fact that it occurs is absolutely regrettable for the individuals. I ask the Minister to look at the issue. Let us more carefully match supply and demand, but let us also look at ways to give limited experience to teachers so that they can secure employment.

Photo of Daithí McKay Daithí McKay Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Members for bringing this issue to the Floor. I welcome the opportunity to debate it. It is important, and all parties agree that the Department should ensure that opportunities for newly qualified teachers are increased and that they should get experience as soon as possible after qualifying. The Department clearly has taken steps on the issue of prematurely retired teachers, and changes to the common funding scheme, which came before the Education Committee earlier this month, will discourage prematurely retired teachers from returning to work post retirement. Obviously, there are limitations on people’s right to employment, but no doubt the Department is exploring what it can do and acting upon that.

Monitoring the re-employment of prematurely retired teachers, encouraging the use of the substitute register, having employing authorities bear the cost of granting premature retirement to teachers and changes to the common funding scheme are all to be welcomed. The Member who spoke previously referred to a number of personal cases, and it is worth remembering that, when teachers get a placement, they should be treated fairly.

We hear examples of substitute teachers who gain employment in September and work through to June, but, quite deliberately in a number of cases, are then dropped to save the payment of two months’ wages. Of course, many substitute teachers are brought in on a daily rate for a long time, and, when that happens, it might be because of tight budgets or because of circumstances in that school. However, regardless of that, it is totally unacceptable. It is wrong that teachers have to get by from week to week and face the pressures that come with that. Those are pressures that many people in other jobs do not have to face.

The Department should ensure that employment opportunities for teachers are maximised. That means addressing the need for mutual recognition of teaching qualifications across the entire country. When the Minister is summing up, perhaps he would update us on what work is being undertaken with his counterpart in the Dáil, Ruairí Quinn.

The issue is one of cuts across and between the Department of Education and the Department for Employment and Learning. One must consider that the overall intake to initial teacher training courses has reduced in recent years by some 25%. However, I take on board the point made by the motion’s proposer, which is that we need to try to match supply to demand, but that is a very complex process.

We should always be open to looking at practices in other jurisdictions to see what benefits they have, but the Scottish example has yet to be proven. However, it is important that the Department at least keeps an eye on how that goes. I agree with the general thrust of the motion and look forward to listening to the rest of the debate. Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of David McNarry David McNarry UUP 3:15 pm, 20th September 2011

I will deviate slightly. Following on from Kathryn Torney, Lindsay Fergus continues to provide excellent analysis and factual information in her coverage on education in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’. Last week, the paper launched the Clarke manifesto, which is a 10-point advisory directive to all of us. Specifically referring to children, Liam Clarke advised that schools must be encouraged to share teachers and facilities, regardless of religion. He said that our segregated teacher training colleges should also be encouraged to co-operate and that the mess left by Caitríona Ruane over the 11-plus must be resolved by her successor John O’Dowd.

His advice may well be a bit of journalistic bravado, but, on that issue, he is bang on the button with advice that I believe is worth heeding. We are not alone in having to handle unprecedented unemployment among young teachers, and it comes at a time when it has emerged that the National Institute of Economic and Social Research now clearly suggests that the recovery from the recession will be slower than that from the Great Depression of the 1930s. It has also emerged that only one in five teachers in Scotland were able to find work, and almost another fifth were forced to pursue another career or leave Scotland altogether to find a job.

In respect of workforce planning, the situation of newly trained teachers has to be seen within the context of a low pupil:teacher ratio, which is 14·7 for post-primary schools and 20·2 for primary schools across Northern Ireland. The overall Northern Ireland pupil:teacher ratio is 16·11, which compares with 16·6 in England, 17·6 in Wales, and 13·3 in Scotland. That is a reflection of the drop in pupil numbers, which has led to the situation of unfilled desks in our schools. Therefore, we really have reached a moment of truth in the education system. That is why, last week, I called for the Department of Education to establish what we possess in respect of the schools estate and also where we stand in respect of the deployment of the teaching workforce and its backup administrative support. The demands being imposed by budgetary cutbacks inevitably mean that we need to get the best possible value for money, and we cannot know what we are doing without the kind of information that I have asked the Minister to provide, along with a planned exercise.

Whichever way one looks at it, it is clear that there has been an increase in the teacher workforce at a time of low pupil:teacher ratios across the education service and at a time when pupil numbers have, thankfully, remained relatively stable. School pupil numbers across all sectors are projected to increase by around only 5,000 net by 2016-17, with around 4,000 more in primary schools and fewer than 1,000 more in the post-primary sector. The increase in primary enrolment bodes well for the post-2016-17 primary school teacher workforce, but the effect of that will not work its way into secondary schools until 2023-24. The work-planning issues that that raises, in assessing how many teachers we need to train by sector over the next decade, have to be set in the context of the number of currently unemployed teachers by sector. We need to know what the net picture is. We need to see it.

How many will desert teaching permanently because they are disappointed that the Careers Service has pointed them in the direction of a career without enough jobs to sustain the numbers that are being trained? I call on the Minister to address not only the situation that has arisen with unemployed graduate teachers but all the complex situations facing the education service. If he has a plan, hopefully it will be forthcoming and will be a priority plan. I am personally willing to share information with him on what we need to do and will have to do to put right the situation in the education service.

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party

I join colleagues in thanking Mr Craig for bringing the motion to the Assembly. It takes us to the heart of some of the big, strategic challenges that face the education system — challenges that always seem to come back, in one way or another, to the system’s inability to plan for its own future. It puzzles me that a system that has been with us for so long, in which we have such a vested interest in getting right and of which we spend so much time celebrating the achievements should have some fundamentally big management problems — problems that just do not seem to go away but instead repeat themselves again and again and again. I think that it would be unfair to lay the blame for those problems at the current Minister’s door. To be fair, they pre-date his being in post. We all know him to be a man who is capable of taking on more than one job at the best of times, and we look forward to his leadership showing through so that, at last, we can begin to address the issue.

As the Deputy Chairperson said, it is right to wonder about what happens when sixth-form pupils sit down with their careers adviser and are advised to become a teacher. They are told that teaching is a great job with loads of career prospects, only to discover, three or four years later, like all too many newly qualified teachers from whichever institution, that that, in fact, was a false promise. It is also right to wonder about how we are able to plan for our health service in a way that seems to understand and get ahead of demographic trends and birth rates when, for some reason, that does not seem to be a particularly important, measurable thing in our education system.

All of that is simply context. The issue at hand is, frankly, the management of a crisis. I acknowledge the many vested interests at play here and the right of people who have served a career in teaching and who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves redundant to be able to consider themselves as possible candidates for future employment. However, is that a greater right than the right of a newly qualified teacher to a job? I think that it is about time that we got real about that question.

Does someone who, through no fault of their own, finds themselves out of work but with a redundancy package — maybe an enhanced one — have a greater right to employment than someone who is at the other end of their career? It is a question that Ruairí Quinn, the Minister for Education and Skills in the Republic, sought to address in June. He did so by issuing a circular to all schools in which he basically told them to give preference to newly qualified teachers. He said, “That is my advice. I cannot force you to do it. But, as Minister, using all my political and moral authority that comes with that office, I tell you that, in my opinion, people who are beginning their careers deserve a break around here. I want you to be at the heart of giving them that break.”

We are told that it might cost up to £20 million each year to introduce a one-year guaranteed employment scheme for teachers in the region. Fair enough: I do not dispute the figures. However, the counter-question needs to be asked: how much does it cost us not to do that? How much does it cost us to educate teachers who end up on the broo? How much does it cost us to rehire very qualified teachers who may already have received redundancy payments at the public purse’s expense and, we understand, are being rehired at higher rates of pay than newly qualified teachers? If the Minister addresses those questions, we may all be able to come to an informed view about the merits or otherwise of the one-year internship or professional placement scheme for teachers. However, I do not think that we can. I suspect, in his defence, that the figures are probably not available anyway. That comes back to the basic issue at the heart of the debate, which is a structural, cultural issue that makes it difficult for the system to be able to strategically plan and match its resources to needs.

I do not want to open up the wider issues because that would be unfair. However, I would like the Minister — I will end here —

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member’s time is up.

Photo of Conall McDevitt Conall McDevitt Social Democratic and Labour Party

I would like the Minister to acknowledge that it is not simply OK to leave the issue to be sorted out by market forces.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member’s time is definitely up.

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

Like other Members, I am glad that Mr Craig has brought the matter before the House. For those of us who are on the Committee for Education, it has been a concern for some years. The Public Accounts Committee has also reported on the situation, particularly with regard to substitute teachers. Thankfully, the Department is now moving to address that issue by limiting the amount of money that it contributes towards the cost of a substitute teacher. That is long overdue. It may be necessary to go further. Hopefully, it will mean that newly qualified teachers will, at least, get some classroom experience.

I have nothing but sympathy for the hundreds of teaching graduates — a number that has built up over several years — who entered university and teacher training full of hope and expectation only to find that there are no jobs and few prospects and that they are forced to seek employment in other areas. Most teachers enter the profession because they believe that they are following a vocation — a difficult but vital vocation. We must wonder at the lack of forward planning that has produced the extraordinary outcome of so many teachers who are surplus to requirements.

These days, all the information is available to predict trends in birth rates, the number of empty desks, retirement rates and class sizes. We constantly hear it quoted that there will be 50,000 empty desks in the education system. Do we still base our calculations for the number of teachers who are needed on false and out-of-date assumptions? Do we not know how many teachers are due to retire from year to year? Whatever method is being used, it has produced an intolerable situation. Today, I hear that 5% of this year’s graduates will find work. I do not query the accuracy of that figure as it stands, but, as it is early days, I would hope that it would improve, and I have some reservations about it.

The more telling figures are those from the past few years. The last figures that I saw, which were produced by the General Teaching Council, show a rapid downward trend in employment rates leading to a figure of around 22% for the class of 2010. That figure is frightening.

Photo of Paul Maskey Paul Maskey Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 20th September 2011

I sat on the PAC with the Member last term. With regard to the number of teachers who qualify every year, I take the point that we need to look seriously at the re-employment of recently retired teachers and at the fact that that does not give employment opportunities to young teachers who have recently graduated. However, look at, for example, the number of politics students who graduate every year. How many jobs do those people get in politics? The same applies to newly graduated bioscientists. If you look at all new graduates in isolation, how do we work that out? It is wrong for us to look at one specific group of people — in this case, teachers. If you go through all the universities, you will see that there are people who graduate from many different courses who do not get a job in the field related to those courses.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member has an extra minute.

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

He probably used about a minute, Mr Speaker, but not to worry. I take the point, but I will not compare teachers to politics students, because I might ask why anybody would become a politics student, frankly. I will move on.

I would query the need for more than one training college, but, in the current training system, there are almost 1,500 students at various stages of their qualification. Those students must wonder what the future holds. On current performance, it would be optimistic even to say that 1,200 of them will not move into teaching after graduation. A large proportion will never do so and already have no prospect of becoming a full-time teacher during their working life.

We can add to that the inevitable changes that are coming over the horizon whether we like it or not. None of those will increase teacher requirements. I am talking about the ESA — if we ever get there — which is supposed to be an efficiency measure. I am also talking about sustainable schools, area-based planning and the urgent rationalisation of our various school systems. If the Minister can bring about the changes in those areas that we all know are necessary and cannot be put off for ever, there will be an inevitable reduction in the number of teaching posts available.

There is a massive challenge here for the Minister of Education, and I wish him well with it. We cannot justify the current level of teacher training or, frankly, the number of institutions providing it. I know that that involves the Minister for Employment and Learning as well. We need to encourage teachers who feel that they have contributed enough to their profession to leave, and we should facilitate their exit. If there are ways to do that, I would like to hear about them so that we can make room for new blood.

I always go back to the issue of substitute teachers. We need to ensure that only in exceptional circumstances can a retired teacher be used for substitution over a suitably qualified new teacher. The term “exceptional circumstances” has been used in departmental circulars since the 1980s.

As others said, the information given to students who choose the university pathway should include, if it does not already, a clear indication of the job prospects and the kind of statistics that prompted this debate.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Will the Member bring his remarks to a close?

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

I agree with Mr McDevitt about the guaranteed year; he put the case for that very eloquently. The current situation is not sustainable, and I look forward to the Minister’s comments.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I declare an interest as someone who was once a newly qualified teacher, although that was more years ago now than I care to admit.

Mr McDevitt is correct when he speaks of careers advice. I was not advised against teaching, and, for Mr Lunn’s information, I was advised against studying politics. I ignored that advice, trained as a politics teacher and ended up here. There is a moral to that story somewhere.

I thank my colleagues on the Education Committee for securing the debate. However, like many motions regarding education that come before the Chamber, there is a certain sense of groundhog day. That is by no means a criticism of the motion. It was in June 2007, over four years ago, that the employment prospects of newly qualified teachers were first raised with the Minister’s predecessor in a notice of motion before the Assembly, and here we are again debating the issue.

Photo of Jonathan Craig Jonathan Craig DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. I recall that debate four years ago, and the one thing that I find remarkable is that the situation with the recruitment of new teachers has got worse. Two years ago, almost 14% found employment straight away. Last year, it was 10%. This year, it is 5%. So, although I agree with you that we are having a bit of a groundhog day, it is, unfortunately, now far worse for those who went through teacher training this year than those who did so four years ago, which I think you will agree is regrettable.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member has a minute added to her time.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I concur with my colleague’s remarks, and it has taken a considerable time to start to address that issue.

In June, the Committee was briefed on measures that have been introduced to encourage the employment of newly qualified teachers. Mr McKay referred to those. Guidance was given that advised that the Northern Ireland substitute teacher register should be used when booking all substitute teachers. However, languishing on the substitute teacher register does not give you the experience that you need to secure long-term employment. It serves as a stopgap but is not a solution to this problem, and, of course, guidance is simply guidance and can be ignored by schools.

The Department also advised that the reimbursement of teacher substitution costs was limited, to provide an incentive for schools to employ newly or recently qualified teachers. Again, that argument does not stack up. Capping costs in no way encourages schools to employ newly or recently qualified teachers. All it meant was that a maximum amount would be paid, whatever the experience of the teacher.

We were also advised that the Department has been monitoring the re-employment of prematurely retired teachers on a monthly basis since September 2010. However, that is more than three years after the debate about newly qualified teachers about which I spoke earlier. The wheels grind ever slowly in the Department, and the reason for that monitoring, we are told, is to seek an explanation why those teachers are being re-employed in preference to others.

The rules of the teachers’ pension scheme mean that retired teachers may see a reduction in their pension if employed as a teacher. That seems entirely proper. However, it does not stop the re-employment happening. The Department also stated that a measure to encourage the employment of newly qualified teachers has been the requirement that employing authorities bear the costs of granting premature retirement to teachers. That caused me a little head scratching, particularly when I am informed that, as a result, there has been a dramatic reduction in premature retirements since 2008, with none granted since April 2010. That is to be expected, but how is it of assistance to newly qualified teachers? The Department said that that reduced the stock of prematurely retired teachers and schools will, therefore, need to look more frequently to newly qualified and other non-retired teachers when filling vacancies. However, surely the fact that there are no spaces due to teachers not being granted premature retirement means that there are no spaces for newly qualified teachers as a result.

Last month, the Minister finally announced changes that would be of benefit to newly qualified teachers. Among them was the requirement that schools would be liable for the total cost of employing a prematurely retired teacher. That, more than any of the previous so-called measures, should prove to be an incentive for schools to take on newly qualified teachers, but the question is “Why has it taken so long, and is it enough?”. From my experience, however, that is still providing only window dressing. Unless, as my colleague stated, a newly qualified teacher is lucky enough to obtain employment or cover for maternity leave or long-term sick leave, he or she will have extreme difficulty completing their probationary training year. Until that is addressed, there will be continuing problems facing newly and recently qualified teachers in obtaining employment. As I pointed out, that becomes increasingly difficult when fewer vacancies are available due to the reduction in premature retirements, and, in the meantime, we are producing more and more teachers.

I accept what the Minister stated about a 25% reduction in the past five years, but I also understand the need for flexibility in the model. However, that has not managed the expectation of those training to be teachers that they will get the necessary experience to find permanent positions. Four years ago, cost was the excuse for not providing a McCrone-style agreement guaranteeing an induction year. We have heard figures of £12 million for year 1 and £20 million in subsequent years.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I ask the Member to draw her remarks to a close.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I would like the Minister to qualify what those costs mean. I understand that McCrone is being reviewed, and I look forward to the outcome and how that will assist in future discussions in relation to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an díospóireacht seo. I welcome the debate, which is relevant to both the Minister and Department of Education and to the Minister and Department for Employment and Learning. I am pleased that the Minister of Education and the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning, in the absence of the Employment and Learning Minister, are present for the debate.

I share concerns about any newly qualified teacher leaving full-time study without employment or with a limited prospect of employment. I have close family knowledge of that, as a relation of mine had to diversify and, after a period of unemployment, took up a post teaching essential skills as part of the Steps to Work programme. It was pointed out to me just today that, in the current economic climate, few graduates walk straight into employment in any discipline, which, of course, is unfortunate. For example, a good number of recently qualified speech and language therapists have to emigrate to secure employment. That is very challenging. Teachers are not alone in suffering the experience of not having the guarantee of a job after full-time education.

Statistics are often quoted giving the percentage of full-time students who are not employed three months after leaving full-time study. Although I stand to be corrected, I understand that 87% of those who graduate from St Mary’s University College, Belfast have managed to secure full-time employment after four years, which is a considerable time. I ask the Minister of Education whether he has any figures to hand and whether he could combine, for example, figures for annual intakes to initial teacher education at Stranmillis, St Mary’s and Queen’s and compare those with the number of local students who travel to England for teacher training. I understand that the latter figure may be greater than the former.

I commend the Department of Education for initiating measures aimed at advantaging newly qualified teachers over retired teachers in the management of substitute cover. I would like to hear more detail on that when the Minister responds to the debate.

Photo of Sammy Douglas Sammy Douglas DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Is it not ironic that this morning we talked about underachievement in many schools in disadvantaged areas and now we are talking about a surplus of teachers? Does the Member agree that there must be some way of marrying the various Department initiatives, from OFMDFM’s social investment fund right down to neighbourhood renewal? Surely we can marry those initiatives with the surplus of young, talented and ambitious qualified teachers who are becoming very disillusioned when they finish training.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member will have a minute added to his time.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

I thank Mr Douglas for his point, which I am sure the Minister has heard and absorbed. I agree that creative thinking is needed to ensure meaningful employment and to marry the various government policies.

In conclusion, I take this opportunity to record my sympathy on the recent passing of the northern secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Mr Frank Bunting, who was a champion of social justice and teachers’ rights. I want to think about him at this time.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP 3:45 pm, 20th September 2011

In a statement on 10 June, the Minister of Education said:

“Due to movement in the system there is always a certain level of redundancies; however the level is far below that of around five years ago when the figure was regularly over 500. Furthermore, the majority of these are voluntary redundancies.”

He continued:

“Furthermore, over the last five years the number of teacher training posts has been cut by almost 25%, reflecting the expected future demand for teachers.”

Those startling figures tell the story.

Today’s debate is timely. I suspect that every MLA around the Chamber could cite instances of young teachers who have recently qualified and are waiting for a post. Indeed, I am aware of one young teacher who qualified some eight years ago and has not, to date, got a full-time teaching post. Just imagine the demoralisation that that causes to people who have gone through the rigours of third-level education, prepared for the teaching profession that they wanted to enter and discovered at the end of it all that there is no future in it for them.

We will not prejudge the Minister, but it is an issue that he needs to take very seriously. I hope that he takes it a bit more seriously than his predecessor did. She left a lot to be desired. It came across that the issue was not important to her. We will give the new Minister the opportunity to demonstrate in clear and unambiguous terms that he takes the matter seriously and will put the future of young, recently qualified teachers at the top of his list of priorities. Society as a whole demands that.

Another issue needs to be examined and tackled, and I would like the Minister to comment on it when he responds to the debate. We hear constantly of teachers retiring, picking up their redundancy package and, in a very short time, being back in the teaching system. Were there not a large pool of young graduates and ably qualified teachers ready to take up those posts, that might be all right. That is another challenge for the Minister. He should take a long, hard, serious look at teachers who retire and immediately re-enter the teaching profession. When there is a pool of able and capable teachers waiting to take up posts, it cannot be right by anyone’s standards.

No one here would say that the teaching profession is not vital to the future well-being of Northern Ireland, as it prepares young people for the future. However, there is something drastically wrong with a system that cannot provide for highly qualified young professionals coming into the teaching stream. Surely, there is a case to be made that young teachers coming into the profession are more able than those who have retired and left the system just to re-enter it. I recognise that they bring experience, but new teachers come in with new ideas, techniques and abilities. If the present Minister will take that on board, he will do a service not only to the young professionals but to society as a whole. I trust that this is one issue that he will concentrate some of his efforts on and that he will not let us down in the way that the previous Minister did. She was quite flippant; she showed no regard and brought no professionalism to the matter at all. I suspect that this Minister might be different. I urge him to be different and not to take his cue from the previous Minister. I urge him to ensure that young teachers preparing for the teaching profession have a future.

Furthermore, if the present system continues, it will discourage people from qualifying as teachers. I trust that the Minister will ensure that that does not happen either. Otherwise, we will end up with a teaching profession that no one wants to enter because there is —

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Bring your remarks to a close.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

A number of points have been raised, and it might be worth looking at the facts in response to those. Mr McDevitt asked why we keep going over the same issue again and again. He and Mr Lunn asked why we did not plan for the number of teachers required. I also want to deal with the issue that Lord Morrow raised about substitution.

The first thing to say is that we tried to deal with it before. We realised that there was going to be a problem. The Minister of Education at the time, Caitríona Ruane, produced figures for the teachers that we would require, fed them to the Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, and discovered that she had inadvertently closed St Mary’s College on the Falls Road because there were not sufficient teachers to make it viable. There then transpired a bit of negotiation to the effect that we could not have that, so we inflated the numbers again to make sure that St Mary’s was viable. To be fair, we also inflated the figures for Stranmillis to make it viable.

I can tell you what the figures are now. To do the initial teacher education in Stranmillis — it will read across to St Mary’s — we need 80 primary, 50 post-primary and 15 postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) places, but we have an additional 277 to do extra stuff, which is not costed. It is costed only for a three-year process, and that period is coming to an end. The situation is not viable. People ask me where that number came from. It was actually published in the Hansard report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting on 16 September 2010. My colleague Mr Beggs asked:

“Are we training too many teachers and bringing students in who build up loans, with little prospect of a post being available at the end of the course?”

Mr Sweeney, the permanent secretary, said:

“In response to that stark choice, we have reduced the intake by 27%. As a result, we will reach a critical mass threshold, below which we might erode the viability of local institutions. That would be a bold decision to take”.

What is actually happening is that we refused to close St Mary’s because of political considerations. We have actually produced more teachers than we can find positions for.

Photo of Paul Maskey Paul Maskey Sinn Féin

I have the figures that Mr McElduff gave earlier. After four years, there is an 87% employment rate among students from St Mary’s. That is one hell of a good return. That rate is absolutely excellent.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

I am thankful for the Member’s intervention. I believe that he was the Chair of the Committee —

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member has a minute added to his time.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me read out what it says in the Hansard report of that Committee. The Department told the Committee:

“of the 792 teachers who graduated in 2009 from institutions in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, only 200, which is 25%, have obtained either a permanent or part-time teaching post.”

That is by February 2010. More generally, 2,456 teachers who had graduated over the period 2004-09 had still not been able to obtain a teaching post in 2009-2010. The figures are stark. Mr Lunn said it, and I agree with him: we have too many teacher training facilities. We are producing too many teachers for the vacancies that we have.

(Mr Principal Deputy Speaker  [Mr Molloy] in the Chair)

The figures are stark for the demand from people who want to teach because they have a vocation and want to do it. In 2011-12, the prediction is — I have them for the whole bit — that there will be 1,922 applicants to Stranmillis alone for only 233 places. There is huge demand. What do they do if they do not get a place? They go to England, where there is a demand. They train there and then come back and are in a better position to get a job than our people. The Minister raises his eyes. That is the position.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

I am sorry; I have 30 seconds. You can deal with it in your reply.

The issue comes to this: we will shortly have to look at the merger of Stranmillis and Queen’s, and, for my money, we have to bite the bullet and look at St Mary’s as well. We are producing too many teachers, and there are not enough jobs. It is absolutely unfair. The Minister should take a decision and do what is right and proper to manage the labour supply of teachers.

Photo of Michaela Boyle Michaela Boyle Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. As a member of the Education Committee, I welcome the debate. I understand that we have enough teachers in some areas but not enough in others, such as special needs, Irish-medium education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and basic literacy and numeracy. Along with school principals, boards of governors and others involved in the management of schools, we need to do more to ensure that qualified teachers get into employment. We need to ensure that that is done through the use of the substitute register. I acknowledge the fact that the Department of Education has issued guidance to employers on that issue, but it needs to be fully reinforced and more robust. It is important that students who seek to enter teacher training colleges are advised about shortages and priorities in relation to courses. It is important that their specific training reflects what is needed in the school system in the long term.

I do not want to dwell on what has already been said. I want to share with the House what a young qualified teacher of four years’ standing said to me when she heard that the motion was to be debated today. Her only employment in that four-year period has been up to six months a year as a substitute teacher. Like many others, it is her desire to have a full-time teaching position; in fact, she would even settle for a full part-time position. She has applied for what limited vacancies arise but to no avail. There has been no opportunity to get employment. She is willing to travel any distance, except abroad, to teach and to gain permanent employment. She studied here for four years to make a contribution to society through something that she is passionate about. She refuses to go abroad like many of her friends and colleagues in the teaching profession. She is from a teaching background; her parents and siblings are teachers. There are many issues that she has had to endure in the four years since she qualified as a teacher. She does not tick a box for anything. She is unable to gain hire purchase for a car. She cannot access any benefits for the two months in the summer recess during which she is unemployed. She has no way of getting a loan, and nor can she afford to pay any loans back. She is getting into debt through family members. As a result, her mental health and well-being are suffering. She has nothing to show for all her years of training. She told me that she is aware that there are substitute teachers who have been qualified for more than four years who are being paid by the week. This girl lives one mile from Lifford but cannot avail herself of teaching posts in the South because of the different curriculums. That issue also needs to be addressed.

In November 2010, up to 2,500 teachers were seeking employment. I am sure that that figure has risen. The re-employment of retired teachers for substitution is wholly unacceptable. In the interest of fairness, the situation where newly qualified teachers are desperately seeking teaching opportunities should be addressed. The House would acknowledge that, in the current climate, there are limited opportunities for employment in all walks of life. However, the issue that we are debating must be addressed as soon as possible and as a matter of urgency.

Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP 4:00 pm, 20th September 2011

I, too, welcome the motion. The Member must be congratulated on proposing it.

There is no doubt that the supply and demand for graduates to teaching positions is out of kilter, so something must be done about it urgently. However, I have more specific concerns about existing inequalities between newly qualified Catholic and Protestant teachers. Those concerns are clearly demonstrated by the example of those who have graduated with PGCE and primary-school teaching qualifications. Currently, in Northern Ireland, around 50% of primary schools are Catholic maintained and 50% are controlled. The official 2010-11 figures are: 383 controlled and 396 Catholic maintained.

We have heard about the lack of opportunities for newly qualified teachers. To increase their chance of employment, therefore, graduates will wish to be able to apply to 100% of primary schools. However, to teach in a Catholic maintained primary or nursery school, teachers must have a Catholic certificate in religious education. There are only three options for Northern Ireland students who want to obtain that certificate.

First, St Mary’s students are advised by the college about the requirement and can opt to take the certificate only if they are doing the four-year degree course there. Protestant students are not likely to study at St Mary’s for one year, let alone four years. Therefore, that provision is simply not suitable for Protestant students. Secondly, the primary PGCE course at the University of Ulster includes integrated study for the religious certificate, which students receive on graduating from the course. However, again, there is no provision for simply taking the certificate by itself. Other students are left with one option: they must take a part-time, distance learning course from the University of Glasgow, which last for 24 months and costs £480. From 2012-13, the fee is set to increase to £800.

We have a system, therefore, in which Protestant primary-school teachers coming out of university are seriously disadvantaged in two ways. First, those who lack the certificate have significantly reduced chances of employment in the country as a whole, because they will not be considered for employment by Catholic maintained primary schools. I have already outlined the difficulties with obtaining the certificate, so, secondly, as Protestant schools also consider and employ Catholic applicants —

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

I am sure that the honourable Member had a slip of the tongue, but there are no Protestant schools in Northern Ireland; there are state schools, which are open. I went to a state grammar school where a third of the boys were Roman Catholic. Similarly, a high proportion of students at Stranmillis are from the Roman Catholic tradition and are very welcome at it.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

The Member has an extra minute.

Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his intervention; I assure him that it was a slip of the tongue. I take his point fully on board.

The fundamental inequality in our education system must be remedied. All those who graduate as teachers should be able to work across Northern Ireland, irrespective of religious barriers. We have heard many statistics about unemployed newly qualified teachers, and it genuinely angers me that Protestant teachers have another hurdle to overcome. I shall give an example from my constituency. Recently, a lady came to me with concerns about her son, who trained to be a teacher at Stranmillis College. Due to the difficulties that I outlined, the young man in question is now taking a job in the Middle East. Surely that is not a cost-effective solution for dealing with our young people.

The Minister must answer two fundamental questions. First, will there be equality in teaching across all sectors — in other words, freedom for all? Secondly, if not, will we commit to joint or shared education across the board? In this new era of peace and reconciliation, we simply cannot have a state within a state. It is imperative that we level the playing field. Consequently, I strongly advocate that we begin to properly consider a truly integrated education system. The DUP is a vocal and proactive supporter of integrated education. In my opinion, we need to amplify the debate. The First Minister has already said on record that he believes that future generations will find it difficult to believe that separation in education based on faith ever existed. I sincerely hope that we can work together to make that a reality. If the people on this side of the House are serious about moving forward, I urge them to go back to their communities and ensure that this inequality is dealt with once and for all.

Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party

I congratulate Mr Craig for tabling the motion. It represents the pain among young teachers who cannot get work. We all agree that young teachers who have been trained face a terrible situation. They are innocent victims of what I call a systems failure. It is important that the Department of Education really starts to listen to the pain that is being experienced.

Young teachers cannot get permanent teaching jobs; they cannot even get temporary or part-time teaching posts. Indeed, they do not even get a chance to do a probationary period of teaching after they qualify. That is a great handicap for many of those young people. As Michaela Boyle said, many of them experience deep demoralisation. They are the victims of a vicious circle. As Lord Morrow said, they cannot even get shortlisted for jobs because they do not meet the experience criteria, which is demoralising and grossly unfair to those young people.

Young people who embark on teacher training have made a career choice that they want to pursue. They have stayed on in school, done their A levels, decided to do a three- or four-year teacher training course and have come out with £15,000 to £20,000 of debt for a student loan. When they cannot get a teaching job, they feel cheated and badly let down by the system. Many of them cannot get a start in their careers even in temporary work as substitute teachers in schools. Unfortunately, there is an abuse of the system. Many retired teachers are continually hired in schools in obvious preference to young newly trained teachers. That is where the system is grossly unfair.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

I know the point that the Member is trying to make. I did not get a chance to say it during my speech, but the PAC report states:

“We acknowledge that prematurely retired teachers account for only 13 per cent of substitution days”.

Therefore, it is only 13%.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

The Member has an extra minute in which to speak.

Photo of Paul Maskey Paul Maskey Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. The Member misquoted the PAC. The quote is actually from an Audit Office report.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

I acknowledge the correction, but the information is still relevant.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Order. Mr Byrne has the Floor.

Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party

I accept Mr McCrea’s point. However, if you talk to young teachers who cannot get a job, that issue comes up all the time. Many principals, when they need a substitute teacher, ring up a former teacher. They ring up somebody who has experience, so the situation perpetuates itself. If we are not going to give young teachers a chance to get started, they will never be able to get into the system. That is the human tragedy of the situation.

In many cases, young teachers are being overlooked for temporary posts while teachers are on maternity leave or long-term sickness. As I said, many school principals are taking the easy way out. I have friends who are retired teachers, and I say to them that they are keeping young people out of a job. We have to face up to that, and I call on the Department of Education to face up to the issue. Some guidelines have been issued, but they are being ignored. I accept the fact that if a teacher of A-level maths, science or another specialist subject goes off on sickness or maternity leave, a principal will very often want to hire an experienced teacher to carry on and finish the A-level course in the interests of the students. However, that is not always the case. Some principals take the easy way out and quite simply hire retired teachers to make life easier for themselves.

In 2008-09, we could have saved £6 million if newly qualified teachers had been hired to provide cover instead of prematurely retired teachers. That would be a start to addressing the issues that we are talking about. We need to restrict the use of retired teachers for substitution, and we need a one-year post-degree job placement scheme for young teachers. There are costs, but the current human costs are greater.

We should attempt to introduce the Scottish model here. If a young qualified teacher could get a one-year probationary period within the first two years of graduating, they would at least have some sense of hope. I urge the Minister to try to listen to the case that many Members have made.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I welcome the debate. I will clarify the figures; it appears that every time I respond to a debate, I have to clarify figures. Mr Craig said that 5·6% of newly qualified staff receive full-time permanent employment, and that figure is accurate. However, the Department uses figures that include newly qualified teachers who are on long-term contracts and who are covering for long-term leave, and those figures are recognised by the General Teaching Council. Technically, both figures are correct, which is often the case when you are dealing with figures and arguments.

At the outset, I add my voice to Mr McElduff’s comments about the late Frank Bunting. It is appropriate that, in the first education debate of the new term, we recognise his contribution.

There is no doubt that newly qualified teachers face difficulties in gaining full-time employment. In the current economic circumstances, many people face difficulties in obtaining employment, particularly in their recognised field. However, the Department of Education has not been sitting on its hands since the previous debate or, indeed, during the previous mandate when my predecessor, Catríona Ruane, was in office. As my speech progresses, I will outline several initiatives that have been taken and which are beginning to have an effect on several issues that Members have raised.

However, all of that must be constructed within the law. When we call upon prematurely retired teachers not to re-enter the system, we have to remember that being older is not against the law. When I look around the Chamber, I see a bit of grey hair, including my own. If we follow the analysis of some Members, people with grey hair and who are over a certain age should all retire and move on and allow younger politicians to move in. That is the challenge that we are putting out. [Interruption.] Do not tempt me.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP

The Minister is very good at taking things and changing them around. I recognise that he has a few grey hairs and that I have less hair than I used to have. The point that was being made was about people picking up their redundancy today and re-entering the system next Monday morning.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Yes; although we jest, it is a serious matter. My predecessor and I have taken action on prematurely retired teachers. However, I caution against some of the language that is being used today. Is a highly qualified base of young people who are not currently employed as teachers a “waste”, as one Member said? Are we in a “crisis”, as Mr McDevitt said? That needs further analysis. We are certainly not in “groundhog day”, as Michelle McIlveen suggested. Miss McIlveen informed the House that she is a qualified teacher and taught in the profession, but she is now a very capable MLA. Do we refer to Miss McIlveen as an “unemployed teacher”? Where do we draw the line in describing people who have gone through the colleges?

As we debate the issues, it is important that we are realistic. In not only the teaching profession but in many walks of life, there is increasing competition for jobs. All of the initial teaching qualification courses that are offered here are heavily oversubscribed, and Mr McCrea also referred to that. The fact that there are up to eight times more applications than there are places is an indication of the strength of demand and the quality of the young people who want to enter the teaching profession. It is also an indication of the quality of those who go on to teach in our schools.

The situation is not down to poor careers advice. Those young people, who are highly qualified when they leave post-primary school, have made a conscious decision. Knowing the risks and the obstacles to full-time employment, they have decided that they want to go into higher education through our teaching universities, because they realise that going through a teaching degree also qualifies them for a broader marketplace.

The primary task of our teacher training colleges is to provide teachers for our schools. However, young people who are looking at their career options, particularly in the current economic climate, are asking themselves, “What qualifications can I achieve to give me a broader appeal to the employment market?”

I am keen to remove the obstacles to employment, and I am keen that any obstacles to cross-border mobility are addressed. Indeed, Ms Boyle referred to that subject.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I am keen for that to happen so that teachers here can also avail themselves of employment opportunities in the South. Indeed, I will attend a North/South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting tomorrow where the work of the teacher qualifications working group will be discussed. That group continues to build on the progress that has been made to date on the mutual recognition of teaching qualifications and on the easing of other teacher educational-related barriers.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

If the Member will give me a moment, I will.

Although we should, rightly, provide opportunities for people who aspire to be teachers to enter initial teacher education courses, we must carefully manage their expectations. Given the highly qualified nature of our young people who are seeking to enter our teaching courses, the careers advice that is now available to them, and, indeed, given the media and political attention on the high numbers of unemployed qualified teachers, I have no doubt that young people are assessing their options before entering our training colleges.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

The Minister described himself as an unemployed cook, but he has probably done rather better than he expected. I am a Member whose mother, wife and two daughters are teachers. The Minister has not indicated whether he will stop schools demanding that, before someone can apply for a full-time teaching job, they must have six months’ full-time experience. That is a major obstacle. Very few other employers do that, yet 89% or 90% of adverts in the job pages in the local newspapers deliberately put up that false barrier to teachers.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I will address that as I go through my speech.

I referred to the figures and to how we assess the number of teachers currently in employment. Those statistics do not necessarily mean that those who are unsuccessful in gaining a teaching post are currently unemployed or, indeed, currently seeking a teaching post here. Figures obtained from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for June 2011 show that 17 claimants under the age of 30 who sought a teaching occupation were unemployed for more than 26 weeks. There were 113 claimants under the age of 30 whose occupation sought was teaching, and they were unemployed for less than 26 weeks.

It is important to ensure that the numbers who join approved initial training for education courses reflect the needs of our schools system both in the short and long term and then present value for money. We must also ensure that we have in place a system that supports an overall viable and vibrant teacher training sector that meets the needs of our pluralist education system. The direct matching of teacher supply with demand is complex, given that the number and types of vacancies that occur in any one year are influenced by a number of factors but principally by the decisions that schools take on the desired size of their teaching complements and the designation of teaching posts as full-time or part-time.

I will deal with the Member’s point. At the behest of Assembly, the autonomy on employment matters rests with the board of governors of each school. That has been one of the sticking points during the ESA discussions. I, as Minister, cannot direct a school on the criteria under which a person is employed and nor can the Department of Education, the boards or Council for Catholic Maintained Schools. As long as the criteria are legal and boards of governors act within employment law, they can set certain criteria. We have requested clarification from a number of employing authorities on how they have presented a number of further attributes to employment. However, six-month qualifications are, in my opinion, a matter that fits within current employment legislation, but I am willing to be corrected on that.

As Mr McCrea said, my Department determines on an annual basis the intake levels of courses of initial teacher education having carefully considered the overall forecast demand for teachers based on a range of statistical information. That includes outputs from the operation of the teacher demands statistical model and takes account of pupil numbers, teaching employment, teacher migration and teacher vacancies.

To a large extent, newly qualified teachers are unable to find permanent posts due to falling rolls. Pupil numbers have declined from almost 341,000 in 2003-04 to almost 322,000 in 2010-11. But they are projected to rise, as Mr McNarry indicated, by 2016-17. Although pupil numbers are an important factor in determining the intake, many others also need to be taken into account. It is also necessary to forecast the need for teachers in specific priority or shortage areas, including, for example, STEM-related disciplines, Irish medium, modern languages and early years. My Department carries out an annual survey of schools to gauge vacancies in those areas.

Overall, the provision made available at individual institutions is aimed at meeting the differing needs of our schools system and ensuring that appropriate routes are made available. Although the North of Ireland needs a similar number of teachers, it does not necessarily mean that they can be trained at a single institution. Therefore, I am conscious of the need to maintain and develop the capacity of local IT providers to educate teachers to meet the diverse needs of our pluralist education system.

That brings me to the question that was raised by Mr McCrea. His history of events over the past years was potted, but, how and ever, he got to the core of the issue. We have two teacher-training colleges. Both are very fine institutions. If we continue to drill down below a certain number, one or other of those colleges will no longer be viable. We have to ask ourselves a question: as an Assembly that wishes to assist in working our way out of the economic downturn, do we want to start closing down institutions of further and higher education where young people can achieve a quality education with widely recognised qualifications?

I wonder whether some people looking in on the debate will be saying that the Assembly is complaining that we have too many highly qualified young people. That is the other side of the argument. It has been proven around the world that the sustainable way to work our way out of economic recession is to have a highly qualified base of young people. We can close down one or other of our institutions, but I go back to the figures that I commented on earlier: there is still a high demand from young people to go into the teaching profession. Yes, they want to go into schools and carry out their vocation, but they also see it as a pathway to other courses and employment. We can close one of our institutions and ship our young people over to England, Scotland or Wales, or down South; however, we have to ask ourselves a serious question about planning for the future. I am of the view that the way forward is with our current teacher-training institutions. That allows us to build out of recession.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

I appreciate the Minister giving way. The issue is not that we are worried about having highly qualified young people; it is that we are worried about having highly qualified unemployed young people with no prospect of employment. I am quite happy for people to say to me that we think that, in the longer term, there will be a role for those people. That is fair enough. However, the other issue is that careers advice relates not just to teachers: we produce too many lawyers and other professionals.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I appreciate what the Member said, but I have to get on to look at the way we have dealt with the issues surrounding the motion. Ruairí Quinn sent out a circular, and I know that the Chair of the Education Committee loves circulars, but, as Mr McDevitt requested, my Department has already sent out guidance to schools on the employment of newly or prematurely retired teachers. Our recent changes to the common funding formula will ensure that schools will meet the cost of that. I understand that members of the Education Committee are seeking to challenge that decision because they see it as a burden on schools. You cannot have it both ways. The only way that we can change the attitudes in schools is by legislation, and, as I said, we cannot discriminate in law, or by taxation through the common funding formula that will allow those schools to work out —

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I am stuck for time, Chair.

We are working through it in that way. As I said, we have ensured through the circular that schools are monitored on how they employ staff. I encourage any Member who is also on a board of governors to use their influence on substitute teacher matters to insist that the boards adhere to the departmental guidance and give a chance to newly qualified teachers.

I am aware of the report in Scotland and that a year’s induction work is provided there for newly qualified teachers. That has been costed. It would cost the Executive £20 million a year. It is currently being reviewed by the Scottish Executive. I have asked my officials to monitor the situation very closely and to report back to me on the findings of the report and the Scottish Executive. If favourable recommendations come out of the report, I assure you that I will bring them to the attention of the Education Committee

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Will the Minister bring his remarks to a close?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

— and, more importantly, to the Executive and the Department of Finance and Personnel to fund any opportunity to ensure that our newly qualified teachers are given a chance in life.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I call Mr Mervyn Storey, the Chairperson of the Committee for Education.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I preface my remarks by concurring with the comments made about the sad passing of Frank Bunting. We have passed on our sympathies to his family. Education will miss not having someone as colourful as Frank was in the way in which he carried out his business.

I congratulate my colleagues in securing the debate. As we bring it to a conclusion, it is right and proper to pass comment on what the Minister outlined. He referred to the figures. Even though he qualified it by saying that my colleague was “technically” correct, the reality is that the figures speak for themselves: 13·74% down to 10·71%, down to 5·6%. Remember that, when the Department does it calculations, it does not always take into account the total graduate number. It takes into account only the number of graduates who have registered with the General Teaching Council. We could spend all day going back and forward on figures. However, the stark reality for at least 95% of qualified teachers out there is that they do not have a place of employment.

I refer to a point that seemed to exercise Mr McElduff and another Member on the opposite side of the House with regard to the number of Roman Catholic teachers who were employed as a result of attending St Mary’s. I do not believe that ‘The Irish News’ is in any way associated with the unionist community, albeit it is a paper that is exceptionally good for educational coverage. However, in 2008, it stated:

“Fewer than 40 of 800 graduate teachers got jobs in Catholic schools last year … Figures show that a relatively small number of graduates secured employment in the Catholic sector and most were only awarded temporary contracts.”

I rest my case with regard to ‘The Irish News’.

The Minister said that the Department has not been sitting on its hands. However, it took the Minister 13 minutes to get to the point where he started to tell us what it has done. Then he told us that what it has done is to make changes to the common funding formula. He referred to the fact that some of us have raised concerns about those changes. Here is the reason why we raised those concerns. Item (e) says:

“to remove the criteria for centre substitution costs of the common funding formula where teachers have been required to be involved in the transfer procedure”.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard. The previous Minister —

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Let me correct the Member. I am not referring to the transfer meeting. I am referring to how schools will fund any substitute teachers that come in. I have made changes to that. Any school that brings in a retired teacher will have to pay the higher rate to that retired teacher out of its own costs, not out of the central Department costs, which means that the onus is on the school and not on the Department. That will affect the employment of substitute teachers more effectively than anything.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Minister for that. However, it is regrettable that in this document it was used as another means of trying to have a go at the failed issue of transfer, which, no doubt, we will come back to at some stage.

I appreciate that the Minister is here, given his demanding schedule over the next number of weeks. I trust that his diary commitments and his position will in no way deflect away from the serious issues that we have to address in education.

I have a specific question for the Minister. He said that he is keen to remove the obstacles to employment. He referred to the six-month experience mentioned by my colleague Mr Wells, but he did not mention the Catholic certificate, which was referred to by my colleague Mr McIlveen.

When the former deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness was asked about it in the House in relation to the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, he called it discrimination. The then deputy First Minister said that it was a “sensitive issue”. If we are going to have a shared future and a level playing field in employment, we are going to have to look at discrimination against teachers who cannot apply for a job in a sector other than the maintained sector.

The Education Minister then came to the closing down of institutions, and he was trying to defend the issue around St Mary’s. That was raised by Basil McCrea, and I hope that I will get to it in a minute or two. He has said to me that you cannot have it both ways in relation to the funding and employment arrangements, but you cannot have it both ways and have rationalisation in education provision in the estate, but not have it in teacher training provision. If we are going to have an open, honest and transparent debate about the future of our education system, it has to go from preschool and early years right through, and it will have to include the issue of the many places in which the PGCE primary programme is provided. It is provided in more than two institutions. Remember that the University of Ulster provides a PGCE primary programme, as does the Open University. There are, therefore, more than two institutions here with that provision.

Let us ensure that we look at the issue in the round, and let us not have any institutions that believe that the Members on that side of the House or the Members on this side will, somehow, give them a blank cheque to provide for their continued existence. We need to watch that very carefully in the weeks ahead.

I turn now to Members’ comments. My colleague Mr Craig raised the issue of the cost of substitute teachers. I was never very good at maths at school, and I stand to be corrected on my calculations, which are based on the figures that have been given and which were quoted by Mr McCrea as well. We should be amazed that between 2001 and 2009, the cost of substitute teachers increased by 73% to £66 million. Previously, it was somewhere in the region of £33 million or £34 million. We have had a massive increase.

Then the Minister comes to us today and says that the introduction of a scheme would cost £20 million. He said that in the statement that he issued before the debate took place. The issuing of that statement shows that the Department was obviously exercised about the debate. It would be a lot cheaper to implement the scheme than to continue with the funding of substitute teacher provision. I took another look at the statement issued by the Department; in fact, I put my spectacles on to make sure that I read it right. This morning, in anticipation of today’s debate, the Department said that it has taken a number of measures to increase employment opportunities for newly qualified teachers. It went on to say that one of those measures was to reduce the overall intake to initial teacher training courses by almost 25%.

The problem goes back to the issue that was raised by Mr McDevitt. He talked about management crisis. Here we have a Department that tells us that it has control of the issues. It can fill the Education Committee and the Chamber with all the information, week on week. We appreciate the hard work that many in the Department do to provide us with that information. However, the Public Accounts Committee at the House of Commons did not hold the view that the Department had control of the issues. In the follow-up report on the management of substitution cover for teachers in the 2010-11 session, it stated that:

The Committee is disappointed that the Department, employing authorities and schools have still to realise the full benefits of a £1·1 million investment in a new management information system — Resourcelink, the implementation of which had already taken considerably longer than first anticipated.”

I ask the Minister or his officials to take note of that, and maybe, at some stage, they can actually inform us of the outcome and benefit of this wonderful system, about which we still have two Members across the House disputing the accuracy of figures.

At one stage, I thought that Mr McKay was the Minister. I thought that I had missed something.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

He was defending the Department. He did, I have to say, say that it is wrong for teachers to have to get by on a week-to-week basis. It is not right for us in this House or any Department to have to deal with that.

I will conclude by reminding Mr McCrea that it was his colleague Mr Empey who did the deal with former Minister Caitríona Ruane on the intake numbers at St Mary’s. If he wants to have a discussion about the figures, he should talk to Mr Empey, who will give him the facts.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Just to clarify, I did call Mr Storey as the Chair of the Education Committee. I now acknowledge that he is speaking in his capacity as a private Member.

Question put and agreed to.


That this Assembly notes with concern the number of newly qualified teachers leaving full-time study without employment, or with little prospect of it; and calls on the Minister of Education, in conjunction with the Minister for Employment and Learning, to address the situation.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP

On a point of order, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. Before you bring the matter to Adjournment, I want to make sure that my correction is noted. As was pointed out by Mr Maskey, in the earlier debate, I quoted from the paper produced by the Northern Ireland Audit Office on 26 May 2010, ‘The Management of Substitution Cover for Teachers: Follow-up Report’. For the record, that was corrected by Mr Maskey, and I want to make sure that that is noted.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

That is not really a point of order, but you have put it on the record.

Motion made:

That the Assembly do now adjourn. — [Mr Principal Deputy Speaker.]