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Fixed-term contracts axed to see off job poachers

A NUMBER of fixed-term education posts in West Dunbartonshire are to be made permanent to prevent staff being poached.

The authority's director of education had warned in a report that half of the staff originally appointed on fixed-term contracts to do early intervention work had switched to permanent posts in other authorities.

Ian McMurdo said that the loss was "doubly unfortunate" because of the investment in training. "The council, through its highly successful early intervention initiative, is effectively providing staff with top-quality experience and training from which other authorities are able to benefit by offering them permanent jobs."

The council is also concerned that fixed-term contracts may limit the number of applicants because such posts are not as attractive. When six fixed-term posts were advertised there was only one application. At present 120 non-permanent positions are funded through the Government's new deal money or from specific grants, at a total cost of some pound;1.98 million. A hundred posts will be madepermanent with immediate effect at a cost of pound;1.29 million. The rest will be kept under review.

The council feels that the "element of risk" involved in converting to permanent positions is worth taking and is banking on the Government transferring funding into the general council revenue pot if specific grants are discontinued. Officials also anticipate increased levels of expenditure in future spending reviews.

Mr McMurdo said: "In the event of a worst case scenario, the complete cessation of funding for the posts, it would be possible in a relatively short period of time to absorb most of the staff into mainstream schools.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to fill teaching posts within the council, and any surplus staff could be absorbed by filling mainstream posts and by increasing the size of the pool of permanent peripatetic teaching staff."

Ronnie Alexander, teachers' representative on West Dunbartonshire's education executive, said staff welcomed efforts to cut down on the use of fixed-term contracts.

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