A large group of people yesterday protested outside a meeting of the local council this afternoon demanding equal rights for all teachers.
Organised by Equal Rights for All Teachers (ERFAT), the group was protesting against the new ‘Investing In Teaching Workforce Scheme’ which allows teachers over the age of 55 to retire early, opening up more employment in education.
However, the group claim there is a problem and say they were horrified to learn that the Education Department had installed a caveat on the scheme, stating that, whilst schools will have the opportunity to release one teacher from the profession, another may only be appointed if the candidate was a ‘newly qualified teacher’ or a recently qualified teacher with a maximum of three years’ experience.
Catriona Concannon, chair of ERFAT, said the teaching jobs situation was affecting hundreds of graduates.
More than 80 people are now members of ERFAT and are raising awareness on the streets.
“A lot of people don’t realise what this scheme means for us,” said Ms. Concannon.
“You can only apply for the jobs if you have qualified less than three years ago.
“That wouldn’t be a problem if we lived in the likes of England or Scotland where there are lots of jobs. But there are not a lot of jobs in Northern Ireland and there are a lot of teachers. We have three teaching colleges in Northern Ireland. There are a lot teachers being trained but there are no jobs for them.”
Catriona said the goalposts had been moved and, effectively, teachers like her have been told they are too old to teach.
“We’re being told the new teachers have new techniques, but what about my experience over the last ten years?”
Catriona said the situation was impacting in other aspects of teachers’ lives - for example, as they struggled to qualify for mortgages.
“We have to put away a fraction of our wages because we’re not paid for the days when we are not at school,” she said, “such as the summer or the Easter holidays.
“We want the scheme to be opened up to all teachers and not just the newly qualified. We want the same opportunities. Many of the Derry councillors are backing us including the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists and the Independents.”
The group said they wanted to tell the public that they would stand up to discrimination, protest about inequality and would not allow “unjust and unfair” decisions to be made on their behalf by political figures who had been voted in by many of the people at today’s protest.
The ERFAT page can be found on Facebook titled Equal Rights for All Teachers and the petition on the page has been signed by over 7,000 signatories.
Independent councillor Darren O’Reilly proposed a motion asking Derry Council to support rights for equality for all teachers and give everyone the opportunity to apply for the jobs.