£33m scheme to help newly qualified staff get jobs delayed indefinitely
A scheme which planned to replace older teachers with newly qualified staff has been delayed indefinitely.
The Investing in the Teaching Workforce scheme would have allowed teachers over 55 to retire early and access their pension to make room for new staff.
But on Wednesday it was revealed it would not go ahead during the assembly's current mandate.
It was initially expected to be up and running by spring 2016.
However, there was no agreement on how newly-qualified a teacher should be to apply for a job under the scheme.
The Northern Ireland Teachers' Council (NITC), which represents the main teaching unions, said it was concerned it would not proceed.
However, the Department of Education (DE) said the scheme had merely been delayed and not abandoned.
The minister initially decided that only teachers who had graduated within the past three years would be eligible for a new job under the Investing in the Teaching Workforce plans.
Mr O'Dowd later said the executive would decide if the three year limit should be increased.
The executive will not be able to take that decision before the end of the current assembly term.
Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union and chairperson of the NITC, said the delay was "extremely disappointing".
"We've been told that a decision on whether the scheme will proceed will be made by the new education minister following the elections May and once ministers have been appointed.
"The mandate for the current executive has reached a point at which it is no longer possible to seek agreement to the scheme being finalised and launched.
"The unions will be lobbying the political parties in the run up to the election and will prevail upon the new minister to implement the scheme as soon as possible.
"The teaching unions remain committed to this initiative which they believe is an innovative way to rebalance the age profile in schools.
"It is imperative that this £33m should not be lost to the education budget", she said.