Some 1,700 teachers have written to Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, saying they cannot secure a mortgage, plan maternity leave or make other long-term commitments because of the instability of their employment.
They say the “casualisation” of the teaching workforce is forcing teachers to seek employment elsewhere and impacting on their mental health, due to increased stress and anxiety.
Last year the Scottish government funded an additional 1,400 teaching posts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the 1,700 fully qualified Scottish teachers who are unable to secure permanent employment say in their open letter that “these posts have been created on a temporary basis” and that “the majority of these posts will cease in June”.
Supply teachers: Supply teachers 'forgotten' during Covid lockdown
They also say that council budget cuts are resulting in fewer posts being advertised when “pupils need our support most”.
Please share the open letter to the FM and the DFM from Scotland’s Temporary Teachers who are desperately seeking employment. https://t.co/iuK1nmhxis— Scottish Temporary Teachers (@ScottishTempor1) March 30, 2021
The open letter – which has also been sent to deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney – states: “In one council this year, announcements were made that 69 nursery teaching posts and 40 area cover teaching posts are to be cut and the staff redeployed, immediately filling all available posts.
Covid and schools: Teachers unable to get secure employment
“In another council, only supply work was advertised and interviews for this have just been cancelled. Over 1,200 teachers submitted their application for this post and hundreds have been left disappointed that their application will simply be kept 'on file'.
“When approached, councils have advised that they already have a surplus of permanent staff that is greater than the minimum requirement. The practice of filling classrooms to capacity and reducing the number of teachers to a skeleton staff is questionable, clearly in contempt of the GIRFEC [Getting It Right for Every Child] values and The National Improvement Framework ideal to close the attainment gap.”
The letter continues: “There are thousands of teachers who cannot secure mortgages or car loans, plan maternity leave or make long-term commitments due to the uncertainty of our employment. For those of us unlucky enough to be on temporary part-time contracts, we have had to seek additional employment elsewhere to pay our bills.
“Many of our colleagues have even had to leave the profession due to the instability of employment. Understandably, many of our colleagues have reported a decline in their mental health and increased stress and anxiety levels due to the casualisation of the workforce.
“Despite this, we do appreciate the value we bring when we are able to work and continue with a smile on our face and provide the fantastic education and support our children need and deserve at this difficult time.
“I’m sure you will agree that it is in all of our interests to find a solution to these practices and ensure that all teaching resources are being utilised fairly to support our learners.”
Nicola Sturgeon has been faced with questions in the Scottish Parliament about the number of teachers on temporary or part-time contracts, or who are languishing on supply lists.
In response, on 18 March at First Minister’s Questions, she said that the government did not employ teachers, but rather that it supplied “the funding for local authorities to employ teachers”. She said that in January £45 million of new funding had been announced for education’s recovery from Covid.
She added that she would “encourage” all local authorities to give teachers permanent jobs “because we are going to need more teachers in our schools for a long time to come as we continue the work of improving education for all”.
Mr Swinney also faced questions on this issue and was specifically asked at the Scottish Parliament’s education and skills committee's meeting last week – its final meeting before the 6 May parliamentary election – if schools could rely on the extra support from additional teachers “beyond the end of the school year”.
He said that the funding for the additional teachers had been provided for this school year and next, and that there was “no reason why teachers who have been part of the additional cohort that has been taken on – or part of any additional cohort that has been taken on in the context of Covid – should face any uncertainty about their position, because the finance is available to enable local authorities to offer continuity of employment”.