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'Cheap labour' fear stalks probationers

Hundreds of probationers have still not been offered jobs for next year, according to a survey of education authorities by The TESS.

And would-be teachers are venting their frustration in our online staffroom, claiming they feel like "cheap labour" and are forced to chase after supply work.

New teachers in the central belt appear least likely to be taken on by their education authority. One council, Renfrewshire, has so far employed none of its 70 probationers and the best it can offer them is eight posts "in the near future."

By contrast, the more rural education authorities, which have traditionally struggled to fill vacancies and provide supply cover, are offering permanent posts to high numbers of this year's probationers.

Glasgow City Council, for instance, has offered 40 posts to the 249 probationers it hosted this year, and another 31 from other authorities.

Similarly, Edinburgh has given only 28 of its 167 probationers permanent posts. East Renfrewshire's 138 probationers scrambled for only 43 posts.

In contrast, Highland expects to offer posts to more than 70 per cent of its probationers, while Western Isles has given jobs to 10 of its 13 probationers.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "It is our belief that, come August, this situation will have settled down. It is taking longer than people are used to because there are more people in the system but, as at every stage before, the system has coped."

She denied suggestions that the unprecedented numbers of new entrants to teaching would create a bulge in teacher numbers as 40 per cent of the current workforce retire over the next 10 years.

"We do need them (the new teachers) now. We didn't just pluck our target of 53,000 teachers from the air."

She said the increase in numbers had been guided by the executive's target of cutting class sizes to a maximum of 25 for P1 and 20 for English and maths in S1 and S2 by 2007.

Scotland now has 52,179 full-time equivalent school-based teachers. The executive has made a commitment to having 53,000 by 2007. This year, there were 3,010 probationers in the induction scheme; next session there will be 3,787 - a record number.

Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, said this meant the target of increasing teacher numbers to 53,000 could be met this year instead of next.

But Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, warned that it would be a waste of public money if teachers had been "trained for the scrapheap". If jobless probationers had not found employment by August, then the executive and local authorities should "bite the bullet" and provide funding for extra jobs.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, called for greater transparency in the allocation of funding in Scottish education and a fairer distribution of fully-funded probationer places.

He added: "It is very clear that some authorities are taking on big numbers of probationers, sometimes fully funded, and then they are not following it through in terms of deciding which vacancies they fill and which they keep for probationers."

Meanwhile, figures released by the executive this week, based on a snapshot survey of teaching vacancies in February, showed there were 774 teacher vacancies, of which 245 had been vacant for more than three months.

Compared to the same time in 2005, the number of vacancies had dropped from 1,164 and the number of long-term vacancies from 439.

Fiona Hyslop, SNP education spokesperson, claimed the teacher workforce planning exercise had been ill-thought out in that there had been an over-production in some subjects, and insufficient numbers in English and maths.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, Conservative education spokesman, contrasted the situation of newly- qualified teachers failing to find jobs within the vacant posts that still existed.

"Either teachers have to be more flexible about where they work or the Executive must ensure that incentives exist to encourage teachers to work in less sought-after areas," he said.

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