Probationers 'used and abused' in cover crisis

A shortage of supply staff is causing new teachers to miss out on non-contact time

Emma Seith

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Probationer teachers are being forced to give up their non-class contact time due to the "dire shortage" of short-term supply teachers, the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) was warned this week.

Already teachers in their induction year have seen their time in the classroom increase from 15.75 hours to 18.5 hours per week as a result of the changes to teachers' pay and conditions agreed in May.

Patrick Boyle, head of St Charles' Primary in Paisley and a member of the GTCS council, claimed probationers' preparation time was now being further compromised as a result of a supply teacher shortage (see below). Probationers were being "used and abused" by schools struggling to find cover, he said.

Headteachers and education authorities have struggled increasingly to find short-term supply cover since the teachers' agreement last year introduced a lower pay rate for supply teachers working five days or fewer.

Probationers had to be protected, stressed Mr Boyle.

"They would have to be awfully brave or awfully foolish to challenge this themselves and to believe it would not have some sort of repercussion. In the long term we have to think of a way of bringing this to the attention of the council," he said.

The GTCS would gather information, scrutinise it and respond if necessary, said convener David Drever.

The issue was raised at the final meeting of the GTCS council before the body gains independence on April 2.

Among the issues facing the new body will be the introduction of a re- accreditation or "professional update" system for teachers; a new framework on teacher competence; changes to its membership and committee structures; funding; and work related to the McCormac review of teacher employment and the Donaldson report on teacher education.


Among the new powers acquired by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) on gaining independence next month will be the ability to admit non-teachers to the register.

It was revealed this week that instrumental music instructors and teaching artists could be the first to benefit, following a formal written request from Scotland's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland.

The EIS argued music instructors carried out work analogous to that of a classroom teacher, that music teaching was central to Curriculum for Excellence and registration would acknowledge their professionalism, as well as encourage the development of professional relationships with colleagues, and allow them access to high-quality continuing professional development.

The union would support the development of standards for registration for instrumental music teachers and the development of appropriate qualifications for those deemed to be still working towards full registration standard, it said.

The GTCS had already been in informal discussions with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the possible accreditation of an instrumental music teachers' qualification, Tom Hamilton, GTCS director of education and professional learning revealed. Creative Scotland had also floated the possibility of the GTCS accrediting programmes and offering a form of registration to "teaching artists".

Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh already offered a master's degree in dance, Mr Hamilton pointed out in a GTCS paper, and following the merger of the Edinburgh College of Art with the university, discussions were underway about similar developments in art.

This was not an attempt to "water down teaching qualifications", he stressed. The new qualifications would be aimed at artists who did not want to become teachers but were keen to contribute to education.

The issue will be considered further by the independent GTCS.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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