Northern Ireland

Teachers and school staff lose out on NI redundancy deal

One hundred and twenty school staff, including teachers, who thought they were getting redundancy deals have now been told they must stay on next term.

Stormont's Department of Education said the difficult financial situation had forced it to prioritise its spending.

A teachers' union said it was disgraceful that the decision had come days before the school holidays begin.

Timetables for next year have already been prepared, omitting teachers who had thought they were leaving.

Disappointed

Schools had applied for a total of 167 redundancies.

However, the only ones approved by the department are those in schools that are closing or amalgamating.

Even 28 redundancies which met all four criteria set by the department have been refused.

The Ulster Teachers Union said it was ridiculous to make the decision so late, while the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said it was disgraceful after months of uncertainty.

Gerry Murphy, of INTO, said: "By leaving the decision to effectively the last week of term, they have created confusion and uncertainty through the entire system.

"It's caused significant stress, not only for my members, the teachers, but across the entire school communities."

Bangor Grammar principal Elizabeth Huddleston said two teachers at the school who had applied for redundancy had been devastated by Monday's announcement.

"There will be a period of a few weeks where they have to get themselves into the frame of mind that they will continue to be teachers."

The chairman of Stormont's education committee, Mervyn Storey, raised the issue in an urgent oral question in the assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

A similar question was also tabled by the Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister.

"Months ago in various schools the process of teachers applying for redundancy started," Mr Allister said.

"Many in good faith applied and schools were preparing their staffing arrangements for September accordingly, which in some cases involves appointments on the basis of 'transferred redundancies'.

"Now, at the last moment, the education minister has refused consent for redundancies, except in the case of schools he is closing. This has thrown many schools and teachers expecting redundancy into disarray."

Although the school year does not officially end until late August, it is understood teachers had planned retirement events and some are disappointed not to be getting a generous redundancy package.

Secondary schools will now have to reconsider their timetables to take account of the situation, while primary school classes will have to be reallocated.

There has been a suggestion that the department is saving money in case it has to contribute to fines imposed on Stormont for failing to implement the Welfare Reform Bill.

In a statement, the department said: "All applications have been assessed against the criteria and due to the difficult financial environment the executive is facing, there has been a need to strictly prioritise available funds accordingly.

"As a result, the minister has made funding available to meet the cost of teaching and non-teaching school based redundancies for those schools in a closure/amalgamation situation at 31 August 2014.

"No final decisions have been made with regard to teacher redundancies.

"The minister is continuing to make every effort to secure the remaining funding needed to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."

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