Derry mum ‘forced out of teaching’

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A Derry woman who qualified as a teacher seven years ago and has since been unable to find permanent work, says a scheme which will replace retired teachers with newly qualified ones is forcing her out of the profession.

Marie McLoone (28), says her husband is working 60 hours every week to supplement her income from substitue teaching, but that her family life has suffered drastically as a result.

She has heavily criticised Education Minister, John O’Dowd, whose controversial plans will see 500 teachers retire with replacements only being chosen from a pool of teachers who have qualified within the past three years.

“I qualified here and I stayed here to find work because I wanted to give something back,” said Marie.

“We pride ourselves in Northern Ireland on having an excellent education system. Our children have come out better for it. I have children who are about to go into the system and I’m really worried about what the future holds for them.

“I find it incredulous that our Minister, as a member of a political party which brands itself as wanting ‘An Ireland of Equals,’ is advocating a scheme which excludes a significant proportion of people. I believe this scheme is hypocritical and that it segragates.

“I want to be clear that I’m not for one second saying that qualified teachers don’t deserve to get jobs. It’s fantastic that there will be jobs available. What I’m saying is that all of us who have paid thousands to achieve our qualifications and many of us who have spent years in temporary positions, should be able to apply for these posts. The fact that we are not smacks of inequality.”

Marie, who has three children, described how she is already working part-time in a job outside of teaching to support her family.

“I work in the evenings and in the summer, I work two jobs because I would have to come off the teachers’ register to claim any benefits and obviously I don’t want to do this. My husband is working 60 hours every week because we don’t know if I’m going to be working from one day to the next. Because of this he misses our children’s dinner time and bedtime and he also misses out on a lot of sleep. Our eldest child is hoping to go to university to study to become a paramedic.

“He will have to study in England because there are no places here on the course he wants. We can’t afford to send him to England unless he gets a place on an NHS funded course. Nothing about our financial situation will change when I have to rely on temporary work.

“It’s just not sustainable. I’m now at a point where I’m actively applying for other jobs and the jobs which I’m looking at are posts which only require GCSE qualifications.

“I spent £20,000 educating myself to become a teacher and I feel like asking John O’Dowd if he would refund that money because I’m now actively being prevented from applying for work.”

The local mother of three says she also fears for her children who she says will feel the impact of cuts to the education budget first hand.

“I see the pressure that teachers are under already in local schools and ultimately cuts to the budget will be to the detriment of the standard of education received by my children and others. I think we all have a duty to speak out about this, now.”

Marie is a member of the group ‘Equal Rights for All Teachers’ who recently organised a protest at Derry’s Guildhall.

In the wake of significant controversy over the proposed parameters of the scheme, Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “It has to be remembered that 500 recently qualified teachers will be getting permanent jobs and 500 older teachers will be allowed to retire several years early with full pension benefits. In the absence of this scheme neither will happen.

“While teachers who qualified in the past three years will be eligible to apply, I am continuing to explore whether I can go beyond this three year period and still achieve the necessary savings to school budgets to make the scheme viable. I have not finalised the qualification criteria for the Scheme. It is intended that the Scheme will be launched in early spring 2016 after all options have been explored. All relevant criteria will be publicised at that stage.”