Making the cake go round

With the guarantee of a probationary year the lot of teachers on temporary contracts has never been so scary. But there is a way out, says Janice Ross

HE Scottish Executive has finally come full circle. After various campaigns from teaching bodies, ministers have thankfully agreed to alter the pattern of employment for new teachers - you know, that continuous merry-go-round of temporary contracts.

The harsh, uncaring and unprofessional treatment of new recruits bled the profession - what an introduction we offered them. Many a young teacher turned their back and headed somewhere else; only thick-skinned diehards like myself stayed on board ever hopeful that the sails on our ship would unfurl and blow majestically in the breeze as our ship prepared to sail. Ha! Look what thought has done for us. A sinking ship indeed.

While the new probationary agreement is certainly a step in the right direction, the muddle concerning teachers on temporary contracts has worsened. The existing quagmire is mainly thanks to the professional organisations which, claiming to be safeguarding their rights, have in effect sold them down the river - yet again. Always insecure, never being sure where the next school would be, never being given a chance to develop in the one place, never seeing the same pupils, never knowing what the future held, never having continuity, never having financial security: these were only a few of the issues I first raised back in 1995.

As if that wasn't bad enough to sort out, another twist has been added to this maze and never before has the lot of teachers on temporary contracts been so scary. Is there a way out?

The big question: will I have a job in August? This is now more pertinent than ever before. It looks as though those on temporary contracts are going to be the casualties as new probationary teachers are phased in under the auspices of the post-McCrone agreement.

The best solution would be that probationary teachers are seen as being additional to the staffing in a school, freeing time for development work and other professional tasks. This is not a new suggestion. It would also make sense to have smaller class sizes. Smaller class sizes mean more teachers; the conundrum is solved.

However, the voice of so called reason can be heard booming thunderously in the background: how is this to be funded? Local authorities, claiming they cannot find any more for teacher salaries and claiming to be closing public libraries to keep schools open, are saying they are struggling as it is. Everyone seems to be fighting for a (bigger) share of a cake that seems not to have enough baking powder in it because it doesn't rise in the way that new initiatives like social inclusion need it to rise.

We need to do what my granny did and that was put in more baking powder, add to the ingredients, make it rise: increase the size of the cake. How? Well, easy. You take some of the ludicrous amounts of money being spent on the new Scottish Parliament building and add it into the cake mixture. Then you take some of the obscene amounts of money spent on weapons of mass destruction and, before you know it, with a bit of careful stirring you have a deliciously baked cake which is big enough for everyone.

If those who profess to be the voice for change cannot make those kind of noises, then move over and let others in who can. Let us make Scottish teaching what it once was, a proud profession to be in.

Janice Ross is a temporary teacher in Highland, currently serving the public at the Glencoe visitor centre pending renewal of her contract.

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