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Primary jobs 'farce' as rolls fall

Plummeting rolls in primary are fuelling probationers' fears about finding full-time posts when they finally join the ranks of registered teachers.

Some warn they may leave the profession prematurely.

Probationers and students in the north-east have told The TES Scotland they have no chance of a job because of a freeze on posts. Councils need to push through larger numbers on their training year and need to retain space for them, the probationers claim.

But local authorities deny such a freeze, although by national agreement among some councils teachers' posts are generally only coming back on to the market today. (See Scotland Plus, pages 15 to 24) One senior official said councils are facing a twin squeeze from sharply declining pupil numbers in primary and the need to create space for the newly qualified teachers (NQTs) or probationers. "Some schools are losing more than 20 pupils and that's a teacher," one said.

Authorities were therefore having to transfer surplus staff, compulsorily in certain schools. They would have first call on vacancies, the official said.

Figures released this week by the Scottish Executive confirm a recent annual fall of around 8,000 pupils entering primary. Since 2000, the primary roll has fallen from 425,200 to 390,260 and is projected to decline over the next 10 years to 360,000.

Next session, the primary roll is expected to drop to around 384,000, although over the past year the actual drop has been marginally more than the projection. Each local authority will be facing the same hard choices about staffing.

One student, speaking for others but who did not want to be named, said:

"It's very unfair. We are like cannon-fodder and people are pretty cynical.

They are working very hard and not getting paid for it and they are saying they are going to end up on the dole after their training year."

She continued: "We were dragged into teaching and told there will be people retiring and class sizes would be smaller and that you are going to get a job. But none of these people will be."

She said local authorities were "laughing" because they could employ probationers every year at a cheaper rate. "Is anyone warning students coming through the system that they have no hope of getting a job? This whole situation is a farce and it can hardly help children to have a new (NQT) teacher every year," she said.

The council official, however, said some posts would come up over the next few months.

Another probationer said: "Having put myself pound;5K into debt to join a profession 'experiencing shortages', I feel a wee bitty conned. Yes, I'm likely to get a job in the next 10 years, but what do I do till then? I want to buy a house and have some children while I still can, but want to be settled into a job for a few years first.

"I think there has to be some clarity about the reality of getting a job in primary - the current glut of ads paints a very different picture to the reality. In Edinburgh, any job I apply for will be getting about 300-plus applications. What chance?"

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