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pound;350 'signing-on' fee for recruits

David Henderson reports on Glasgow's bid to defuse the city's 'ticking timebomb' UP TO 250 supply teachers can fill in at any one time in Glasgow - and more when coughs and sneezes turn nasty among the 5,500 permanent staff.

The supply list runs to around 1,000 names, yet it is still insufficient to fill gaps at short notice and during classroom epidemics in mid-winter. Retired staff have been hauled away from their favourite hobbies to be given a "golden hello" welcome back.

Iain MacDonald, the city's primary adviser, admits it is a policy no one favours. He recites the perhaps apocryphal tale of the retired teacher who was asked what the kids should call her. "Granny," she replied.

George Gardner, depute director of education, says: "The issue of teacher shortage is related to the fact that we require a supply list to cover for absences and that is an issue for all authorities."

The supply list has shrunk as full-time vacancies become available. Mr Gardner says a combination of New Deal money and savings from secondary school closures led to the new posts. Thirty staff were employed on long-term supply contracts and there are an extra 80 secondary posts and 24 in pre-five and primary.

Four years ago, hardly any college graduates were taken on. "We lost four to five years of finishers who have gone into other professions," Mr MacDonald says.

Like everyone else, the city knows it has difficulties, short-term and long-term, with a mass of teachers due to retire within 10-15 years. "There's an education timebomb ticking away and we want to make sure we are not blown apart by it. We want to make sure we are not going to be short of teachers."

Glasgow is consciously recruiting younger staff and aims to give them maximum support from the outset of their careers, which for the majority still begin with the supply list. This session, 65 summer graduates joined the city's classroom legions. Six of the primary graduates found permanent jobs and 18 in secondary, and the rest enlisted as long-term, temporary staff. Others are on the short-term supply list.

"It's good for the morale and ethos of schools. There will be a better age mix and it gives an impetus to experienced staff to share knowledge and skills," Mr MacDonald says.

A week before the start of term, Glasgow pulled in all its new recruits to the first probationer orientation programme. The appeal of an extra pound;350 in the pocket, financed through the council's special initiatives' fund, drew in virtually all recruits.

Mr MacDonald, the course organiser, said it was merely the beginning of a programme of staff development to ensure probationers are fully supported. Every one of the long-term permanent staff will also have mentors.

The city wants to ensure, in the words of the famous song, they really do belong to Glasgow.

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