MLAs call for end to fair employment teacher exception

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The Assembly passed a motion calling for an end to an exception to fair employment law "allowing discrimination on the grounds of religious belief when appointing teachers", on 22 April 2013.

The UUP's Danny Kinahan said the teachers' exception was "an inequality which should have been addressed years ago".

He explained the requirement of the CCMS (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools) that in order to apply for jobs in its primary schools teachers must hold a recognised religious certificate.

Mr Kinahan said that writing the exception into EU law in 2000 "was an exercise in deception"

"It is clear that this whole area is in desperate need of reform," he said.

Mervyn Storey of the DUP was in favour of the motion.

He said it was "absolutely and totally unacceptable that any organisation is allowed to discriminate in the way that this practice has been going on for the last 40 years".

Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard also backed the motion. He noted the amendment of the CCMS policy to allow teachers to apply for jobs with the proviso that they obtain the Catholic certificate within three years.

"Any proposed repeal of the exception will not be a silver bullet some believe it to be," he concluded.

The SDLP's education spokesman Sean Rogers, a former school principal, spoke against the motion.

He said schools used the certificate to equip teachers "with the ability to conduct religious education classes in a thorough manner against the background of a Christian ethos".

Mr Rogers added that "at primary level sacramental preparation is an important part of religious education".

Chris Lyttle supported the motion for the Alliance Party stating that "our aim should be to train teachers in a shared and integrated environment ".

The motion was carried on an oral vote.

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