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The NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union has commented on suggestions in the media that student teachers be deployed as substitute teachers in Northern Ireland Schools.

The COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin Up to week 46 (21 November 2021) reports that 1072 school staff have contracted Covid in the past 4 weeks. Schools are under severe pressure to find cover staff.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said:
“There is no doubt that the situation regarding substitute teachers is serious and is getting worse but calls for student teachers to be deployed as substitute teachers are misguided and fail to address why Covid19 is rapidly spreading across schools.

“Since Public Health Agency (PHA) advice changed to redefine a school close contact so narrowly that almost no child was a close contact Covid19 has spread like wildfire. The Minister of Education needs to use her powers under the Coronavirus Act to force every school to implement robust Covid control measures.

“To stop the spread of Covid teachers and support staff must be afforded the same protections as all other workers."
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official for Northern Ireland, said:

“Using student teachers devalues teacher training and cannot be the answer to a recruitment crisis.

“The NASUWT suggest that before any consideration is given to employing student teachers that the following measures need to be put in place:

“Remove workload pressures in schools which are tipping some teachers over the edge, these include observations, book scrutiny, meetings, and excess cover.

“Ensure that substitute teachers in our schools are protected and are not abused due to the precarious nature of their contracts.

“Guaranteed sick pay for any substitute teacher who contracts Covid for the duration of their illness.

“Place inspectors from the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) in the classroom as teachers. Many of them have specialist experience that will be beneficial to schools.

“Temporarily remove abatement rules for retired teachers to allow them to work for the whole calendar year.

“Place extra staff in the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland to ensure that applications to register as a teacher are processed within 2 weeks.

“Ultimately, if this pandemic has got to the stage where there are no more teachers the question that needs to be asked is can schools safely open at all and not to recruit from experienced but unqualified student teachers.”


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