Some substitute teachers in Northern Ireland have still not been paid almost 11 weeks into the academic year, it has been claimed, sparking calls for outstanding wages to be paid to staff immediately.
In September, the Education Authority (EA) of Northern Ireland issued an apology to substitute teachers who were not paid as expected due to problems with the online system. In October, it confirmed that about 300 teachers had not been paid for two months in a row.
In Northern Ireland, schools can book substitute teachers using the Northern Ireland Substitute Teacher Register (NISTR) which is run by the EA. The online system was updated on 1 August prior to the start of the new school year; however, some schools and substitute teachers have continued to report problems with the system.
In an announcement in Mid-October, EA said it would be making interim payments to the hundreds of teachers affected by 25 October. The NASUWT union said last month it had been “inundated” by teachers in a state of “extreme distress” over the lack of pay, while the EA insisted it was working to address issues with the system.
However, teacher and Deputy Leader of Aontú, Gemma Brolly, says that the problem has persisted, adding that she was contacted this week by a young teacher who has received no wages, and travels a considerable distance to work each day, incurring expenses which have taken a financial and emotional toll.
“11 weeks into the academic year and still some substitute teachers have not been paid their full, or in some cases, any wages. I wrote to the Minister of Education almost one month ago, demanding our substitute teachers be respected and their wages made available as a matter of urgency. While emergency payments were issued to some, it appears not all” Ms Brolly said, as she slammed what she described as the ‘cart before the horse’ approach of NISTR.
“Just this week, a young teacher contacted me. This teacher travels a considerable distance to school each day. She has received no wages from the Department of Education since 1st September. Nothing. She has constantly contacted NISTR and the department via telephone call and email, and still nothing.
“The day I spoke to this teacher, was the day she found herself so emotionally and financially stretched, she could not travel to school in the complete darkness of whether she will receive any wage at all next week, in the run up to Christmas.”
The east Derry Rep said the situation is “disgusting”, as she pointed to MLAs not at work receiving full wages, while hard-working teachers in the province are now into their third working month without pay.
“On one hand we have MLAs, such as our Education Minister who have not completed their full days work as an MLA but receive their full wages, yet on the other we have teachers such as this, who are now into their third working month with £0.00 to show. Teachers who stayed home and committed to their education system, when they could (like many) have headed off with the guarantee of higher wages and respect. I have written to the Minister (and NISTR) again to address this crisis and release teacher’s outstanding wages as a priority,” she said.
The party’s education spokesperson said that while she welcomed the recently released ‘NISTR School Training Sessions’, she is “extremely disappointed” that ‘NISTR School Training Sessions’ are now being held two and a half months after the new NISTR system began.
“Surely there should have been training previous to the changeover. As of yet, we have no confirmation if this teacher will receive her first wage of this academic year. This cannot continue. If the Minister and the department continue in this travesty, we will have no teachers left,” she said.
Last month, The NASUWT said the issue is a matter of urgency, saying that teachers “need to pay rent, make mortgage payments buy fuel and feed children” as they pointed to the upwards cost of living.
“The cost-of-living crisis is impacting teachers across Northern Ireland, but the impact has been worse on our supply teachers who not only do not have guaranteed work, but it appears they no longer have guaranteed pay for that work,” Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland, said.
“Fixing this issue and paying these teachers before the end of the week must be the number one priority for the minister, the department and the Education Authority”.