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High hopes for this year's probationers

Only 700 of this year's 3,500 probationers are not expected to find full-time posts next session, the education secretary said this week.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, acknowledged to the education committee of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday that probationers were facing problems finding jobs.

Nevertheless, she estimated that there would be 2,400 posts available next year in general, in addition to the 300 new posts she announced last week in conjunction with plans to reduce P1-3 class sizes to a maximum of 18 pupils.

Ms Hyslop told the committee: "About 700 people won't have full-time permanent jobs come August, but they will be needed to fill vacancies that appear over the year. That is obviously not ideal if you are one of the 700. But there have always got to be some teachers available for the supply market."

The average age of new entrants to teaching is now early 30s rather than early 20s, making it more likely that they have family commitments and are less able to move around the country for jobs.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said his union planned to monitor the job situation of probationers in the run-up to the new term, as concerns had been raised that too many new teachers were being trained for the number of jobs available.

Figures released by the Scottish Executive earlier in the week showed there were 695 teacher vacancies across all Scottish local authorities in February, compared with 774 at the same period in 2006 and 1,164 in 2005.

Some 138 posts were vacant for more than three months, a decrease from 245 in 2006, according to the statistics.

In February, Aberdeen City had some of the highest vacancy rates: primary - 18 current and 17 for more than three months; secondary - 34 current and 26 for more than three months. A spokeswoman for the council was unable to explain why they were so much higher than others'.

Aberdeenshire, which had 42 current and 17 long-term secondary vacancies in February, announced this month that its drives in Northern Ireland to recruit recently qualified English, maths and technical teachers were bearing fruit. The council has also been advertising for teachers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland and Eire.

A spokeswoman for the executive also responded to reports that the National Shortage Occupation List for Work Permits, operated by the Home Office, included teachers' jobs in Scotland. The previous executive had sought inclusion on the list to make it easier for teachers from countries such as Australia to apply for shortage areas such as maths teaching.

Letters, p22

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