Trevor Lunn MLA said: “When someone voluntarily retires and receives a pension package and payoff, should they be able to re-enter that same profession outside of exceptional circumstances, potentially preventing a newly qualified worker from gaining employment?
“This is the situation that our education system faces at present in relation to supply teachers.
“I should be clear that I do not include teachers who have been made redundant or have had to leave employment due to ill-health. They must continue to have the right to re-enter the profession.
“This is an issue of fairness. Many newly-qualified teachers need the valuable experience that supply teaching provides yet they are not given the opportunity to do such work. We have so many new teachers that it is very difficult for them to gain full-time employment and this type of work is often their only lifeline. This issue presents a massive challenge for the Education Minister and I believe that it must be addressed urgently.
“In 2008/2009, according to a Public Accounts Committee report £6 million of public money could have been saved if newly qualified teachers instead of prematurely retired teachers filled these roles, because not only are retired teachers taking up these roles but they also have historically cost more. The PAC Committee Report in November 2010 recommended that all supply teachers be paid a flat rate based on ‘salary levels applicable to newly qualified teachers’ and I am pleased that at least a limitation has been placed on the amount payable from central funds which theoretically should encourage the use of newly qualified teachers.
“Given the current economic climate, it is particularly difficult for new teachers to gain employment, and politicians need to look at the best way of delivering value for money in supply teaching and ensuring new teachers can get work.
“We need to address this issue in a swift and effective manner because not doing so could mean continued frustration for graduates and it may encourage them to look elsewhere to avail of work opportunities.”