Education Minister John O’Dowd has thanked teachers for their participation and challenge in developing the education system.
Speaking as he delivered the opening address at the NASUWT annual conference in Belfast, the Minister commended them for their contribution to education over the years, saying:
“Since becoming Education Minister my clear priority has been to create an education system that can deliver for all our children and young people. A high quality education offers improved life chances and a more secure future. The importance of schools and teachers in guiding young people is vital. It is a role I fully appreciate and I want to thank you for your commitment. We must continue to work together to drive up standards and break the link between disadvantage and educational underachievement.”
Speaking about the Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme, the Minister said:
“The Investing in the Teaching Workforce Scheme came about at the request of the unions. The proposals for the Scheme would enable teachers aged 55+ to have the opportunity to leave the profession. This would simultaneously provide job opportunities to those who have the greatest difficulty in securing meaningful employment i.e. the most recently qualified teachers.”
The Minister challenged the union to provide a solution. He said:
“£33 million was secured to deliver this Scheme on the basis that the overall aim was to refresh the teaching workforce and provide up to an additional 500 job opportunities which would not otherwise exist. If you want this Scheme to be opened up to any teacher without a permanent post then you must understand the resulting impact. This will not refresh the workforce; will not provide job opportunities to those that need it most; and will not save public money. Therefore be under no illusion, if I am able to secure Executive agreement to that approach then I assure you this Scheme will not run again.”
Highlighting some of his programmes and policies that are impacting positively on educational outcomes, the Minister continued:
“In the 2014/15 year, there was an overall increase in the number of year 12s attaining 5+ GCSEs including English and Maths and I am particularly impressed by the rate of improvement amongst free school meals pupils. My decision to target resources towards those serving the most disadvantaged is now producing positive results.
“However, we should not be complacent. Educational underachievement is a multi-faceted, societal issue that requires schools, parents and indeed wider communities to work together to effect positive change.”
The Minister also took the opportunity to highlight new legislation he has brought forward. He said:
“I am delighted to have been able to progress some significant pieces of legislation during my time as Education Minister. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill has now passed Final Stage in the Assembly and will put children at the heart of special educational needs provision. The Addressing Bullying in Schools Bill and Shared Education Bill are also progressing well and I am hopeful the Assembly will give its approval to these Bills in the next few weeks.”
Concluding the Minister paid tribute to NASUWT for their contribution to the education system and wider society.
Notes to editors:
1. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.
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