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Heads tell directors to act

If young, able teachers do not find jobs quickly, the profession will "bleed to death", secondary heads warned on Tuesday at their spring conference in Perth.

The plight of temporary and probationary teachers will be raised by the Headteachers' Association of Scotland today (Friday) when it meets the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. Heads have expressed concern about both primary and secondary teachers struggling to find permanent contracts. Government changes to the teachers' pension scheme have also came under fire.

George Ross, head of Gryffe High, Houston, told The TES Scotland that teachers four years out of college were still without a job. "I know of young qualified teachers working on a computer factory assembly line. At least in their two-year probationary period, I do not think it is the best start young people are getting going through a whole range of schools.

"I can think of a couple of young people in my own school who are four years into their careers and don't have permanent posts."

Mr Ross said the Government had to take responsibility for ensuring young teachers went through a reasonable probationary period in a limited number of schools. He knew of secondaries that had run out of money for absence cover and were unable to use supply teachers.

Luke Winters, head of St Mirin's High, Paisley, said: "We are cutting staff rather than employing more and the amount of new blood coming in is negligible. There is a tremendous wave of enthusiasm when new staff come in. They want to make some kind of mark and they drag people along with them."

The quality of graduates, Mr Winters said, had never been higher and young teachers were more aware of current developments. They did, however, need stability during their probationary period, although there were some benefits in seeing a range of schools. Enthusiasm was diminished if they were in a school for two months or less.

Mr Winters accepted money was at the heart of the issue but stressed the need to create jobs for young staff. Changes to the superannuation scheme which will force local authorities to retain their older staff would exacerbate the situation.

He said inexperienced staff still needed the support of principal teachers to guide them through what could be a difficult period. He regretted he had to complete probationary reports on young staff when they had only been in his school for six to eight weeks. But that was sometimes the longest period they had been in one school.

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