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Holyrood

The TESS was on the lips of every MSP in a parliamentary debate on education last week, with more mentions than the "historic concordat".

Rhona Brankin, Labour's education spokeswoman, used The TESS survey of August 29 as evidence to support her call for Government action to address the "growing crisis" of "post-probationary teachers who are unable to secure a permanent teaching post". It showed only 22 per cent had succeeded. She warned Fiona Hyslop, Education Secretary, not to blame "cash-strapped" councils or the previous administration for "this mess". But she needn't have worried: Ms Hyslop blamed us.

It was time for some "cold hard facts", the Education Secretary said. The survey was out of date the day it was published, she argued, because 300 permanent posts advertised in our columns the week before had not been taken into consideration. No matter that, of the 312 ads carried, more than a third were for head, depute and principal teacher posts, along with others such as an early years development officer for Road Safety Scotland?

Ms Hyslop's "facts" were brushed aside by the opposition. Lib Dems lamented the lot of new teachers "destined for unemployment and disappointment", calling the situation "a national scandal". Conservative spokeswoman Elizabeth Smith deemed it "totally unacceptable".

It fell to Maureen Watt, the Minister for Schools and Skills, to sum up. She questioned the prudence of Labour "initiating a debate on the basis of a newspaper article whose accuracy it has failed to check".

It was a crushing blow, but short-lived. For we recovered when, a moment later, Ms Watt quoted from the self-same report on probationer employment to support her argument. She cited John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland: "You want some competition - you don't want a market where everybody gets a job easily. If folk were more willing to move, they might have less of a problem."

Clearly, we can please some politicians some of the time, but not all ministers all of the time.

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