THE £14.8 million being spent by the South Education Library Board (SELB) on substitute teachers - the highest of all of the Northern Ireland’s boards - has been branded “scandalous” by Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly.
The SELB topped the list, which ranks the boards for the last academic year (2010-11), after spending nearly £15 million compared to the Western Board, which spent £9.9 million.
In total the boards spent £60 million and the figures were disclosed by the Department of Education following a request by SDLP MLA John Dallat.
Mrs Kelly said the amount being spent was “appalling” and did “not represent best value for schools, parents or the taxpayer”.
“It is also a scandal when there are so many young people qualified to teach who are unemployed or only able to find temporary work that there is such over-reliance on supply teachers when there is clearly a need for full-time staff.
“I will be asking the Education Minister to provide me with a breakdown by school within the SELB area and will await his response with great interest,” she continued.
Mrs Kelly’s concerns were reiterated by Stormont education committee chairman, Mervyn Storey (DUP), who has called for the introduction of a newly-qualified teachers’ employment scheme to help secure work for graduates.
Mr Storey explained, “If newly qualified staff were employed by schools or shared by schools, young teachers could be employed to provide short and long-term substitute cover. This would give our graduates the experience they need and would benefit schools.”
Figures show that of the 584 graduate teachers who registered with the General Teaching Council, 54 or eight per cent, secured permanent employment.
Education Minister John O’Dowd stressed that he took the issue of employment opportunities for newly-qualified teachers seriously, “particularly given the current economic situation”.
He added, “However, teachers are highly qualified professionals and, as such, possess skills and attributes that would prepare them for many jobs in related areas. Therefore, it is important that they are flexible in the choices that they make to determine their career paths.”
The Portadown Times contacted the SELB headquarters in Armagh for a response , but we were informed by a spokseman that the board did not wish to make a comment at this time.