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Probationer jobs peak has its downsides

It's great news for probationers that a higher proportion of them - nearly one in four - have got permanent jobs at the start of the session than last year. It's the beginning of an exciting new career for many and should mean disappointment for fewer.

The rise would appear to confirm the first indications last year of an upturn in jobs for new teachers, but let's not be fooled. The number of permanent posts remains doggedly the same - at 407 - and temporary posts have plummeted from 667 to 479, our annual survey reveals (News Focus, pages 12-15).

What the figures do show is that the Scottish government's policy of slashing the student teacher intake has worked, to the extent that there are 850 new teachers without regular work compared with 1,548 at this time last year.

But that is 850 too many. Curriculum for Excellence is crying out for fresh blood - new teachers with new approaches. If Scottish education is to be transformed with the type of game-changing, radical thinking and collegiate working that Graham Donaldson, the author of Teaching Scotland's Future, advocates (page 35), then these newcomers should be coming out of the teacher education institutions well prepared.

Judging by the new teachers we interviewed, if they are representative, it is an enthusiastic, upbeat, determined, shrewd and flexible generation. What a shame, then, that so many will have to face sporadic spells of supply teaching, often at poor rates of pay, or end up teaching abroad, or changing career paths ultimately.

Under last year's teachers' agreement, reached by the national negotiating committee (SNCT), local authorities were obliged to maintain teacher numbers at 51,131, and the government came up with additional money to create sufficient jobs for new teachers coming out of their probationary year, though not all went to NQTs. But the councils are struggling, as John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), says, and it is proving increasingly difficult to sustain the number of jobs. If you add up the temporary and permanent posts probationers have found, the evidence is there. The total has dropped from 1,074 last year to 886.

Over the next weeks and months, recruitment will carry on and the picture is likely to improve slightly, but it is less likely that there will be any significant change. So the less fortunate will have to hang on in there, keep an eye on TESS jobs and try not to despair.

"Why would anyone want to be a teacher nowadays?" asks one cynic in this week's Chatroom (page 51).

"I'd love to be a permanent teacher if only the naysayers and moaners would push off and let those of us desperate to get a foothold in," responds Si N. Tiffick.

There will be many who concur., Editor of the year (business and professional).

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