A glimmer of hope, but joblessness still an issue

19th August 2011 at 01:00

It's good to start the session with positive news, particularly for a sector that has had an unfair deal in the jobs market. This week's TESS survey on probationer employment shows a clear upturn in the numbers finding work (News Focus, p12-15).

For the first time since TESS began its annual survey in 2007, there is a rise in probationers finding permanent jobs - 407 across 29 authorities that responded, compared with 273 across 32 authorities last year. And many more have found temporary jobs.

While our total of almost 1,100 probationers finding work falls well short of the 1,800 extra jobs promised by the SNCT deal in March, more could get lucky in the next few weeks. Not all 1,800 jobs are going to new teachers, which will be a relief to those who have been hanging on hopefully for a long time. Many councils are deliberately giving some to teachers who qualified in recent years and to more experienced staff. It depends how they choose to interpret the conditions placed on the Scottish Government's pound;15 million for extra jobs.

At a time of bleak recession, any upturn in the market must be welcomed. Unfortunately we can't go so far as to agree with Education Secretary Michael Russell's upbeat interpretation of our figures - that 76 per cent of new teachers are now employed; he is including those placed on supply lists. Of course it's good to get on the local authority lists, but many supply teachers receive little or no work. So, in our book, that does not count - 84 per cent of new teachers are still without job security.

This survey is a snapshot for the start of term, and some authorities will be further on in the process than others, but there is no clear picture of where probationers are most likely to find jobs. In the past, it was often in rural authorities, but this year, while Dumfries and Galloway has given permanent posts to 41 probationers (66.1 per cent), Highland has only taken on four (5.2 per cent). Similarly, in the cities, Aberdeen has given permanent employment to almost a quarter of its probationers, but in Edinburgh it's only 11 out of 184 (6 per cent).

Certain authorities, like East Ayrshire and Fife, have also shown a distinct preference for employing their own newly-qualified teachers. While that may benefit some, it's hard for other jobseekers who feel unfairly excluded. Also, those who landed in their fourth or fifth choice of authority could find themselves stuck, because they can't get back to an authority they really wanted.

What we would say, though, to all those new teachers who have landed jobs, whether permanent or temporary, is congratulations. And to those who are still looking, we are rooting for you.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor, gillian.macdonald@tes.co.uk.

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