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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Teachers' exception and training

Equality in Education

What you need to know


The ‘teachers’ exception’

An exception dating back to the original drafting of Fair Employment legislation in Northern Ireland means that teachers in schools are not protected in employment against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.


The Commission, as is its duty under Article 71 of the Fair Employment & Treatment (NI) Order 1998, carried out a review in 2004.  The review concluded that the continuation of the exception will not further equality of opportunity for teachers.

The Commission recommends the removal of the exception in the employment provisions of Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 in relation to the recruitment of teachers in secondary level schools, and early consideration as to whether the exception should also be removed for primary level schools.

The Commission’s views on limiting the exception to primary schools only – that is, removing it from secondary level schools - are expressed at the beginning of our Teacher Exception Investigation Report (pdf, 2005)

The removal of the teachers’ exception is again recommended (Proposal 6) in our current proposals for legislative reform (pdf) and has been raised with Junior Ministers and the OFMDFM Assembly Committee.



Equality awareness in teacher education

The Commission has worked with the Regional Training Unit on auditing and helping to develop Professional Qualification for Headship (PQH) materials.  This follows on the recommendation to work towards integrating equality awareness into teacher education and training in Northern Ireland:



Proposed merger of teacher training colleges

The Commission gave its position on the proposed merger of teacher training colleges in Belfast in a consultation response in June 2011:


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