Bordering on impossible

15th September 1995 at 01:00
The gates of Utopia stick shut, as Frances Kirkpatrick found when trying to return to Scotland.

If your school needed an English teacher, would you consider my application? I am an experienced teacher of English and drama with an excellent degree. I am still young (and therefore cheap).

I'm told my references would get me into heaven, let alone your average comprehensive. That's because I establish good relationships with my students, get good results, am an active team member, have accompanied students on activity courses and put lots of energy into school plays and newspaper productions.

So, would you consider me? If the answer is yes, then you must work in England. In Scotland, I am obviously not such an attractive candidate.

My experience may serve as a warning to others who dream of a simpler way of life north of the border and far away from the national curriculum. Beware! The gates of Utopia are closely guarded.

If your nationality is English, you have even less chance than me. Automatic disqualification; devolution rules, okay. But I am Scottish! Surely I have a chance?

My hopes were raised when I passed safely through the first barrier. All teachers wishing to work in Scotland have to re-register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. It is not enough that you are fully qualified, recognised by the DFEE, and have taught for three years. Oh, no. You have to prove it all over again.

You also have to prove that you were born (they will want your birth certificate) and that you did indeed pass that O-levelgrade in classical studies you say you did.

If you can scrape all that information together (where did you put that certificate?), you stand a fair chance of acceptance from the Teaching Council. In my case, it was grudgingly agreed that I could teach English. I had to leave my drama experience in limbo outside the first gate, however. I do not have a drama degree, and am therefore "not a drama teacher". So there.

Feeling a bit bereft, I nevertheless headed for the second gate. I should have been more wary. Too late, I remembered that when I was accepted by an English university, one of my own teachers never spoke to me again. Never mind Lord Haw Haw - I was the Great Traitor. Apparently I still am.

This second gate is jealously guarded by a hydra of bureaucrats, known as the regional authorities. Their first concern is the staff they already employ. If there is a surplus in one school, the region, as the employer, is obliged to reallocate its employees. Then they place the newly-qualified teachers from Scottish colleges. Only then do they consider the "outsiders". And that's where I've come to a dead halt. I applied to four regions in total, willing to consider whatever they could offer me, including supply work.

Two didn't reply. One said that it would only contact me again if it needed me. If you haven't heard anything by the middle of July, it warned, you haven't been lucky.

In England, you have to resign your post before the end of May. Taking a huge leap of faith, I resigned. But nothing came in the post from Scotland.

The last region did finally write. It informed me that it didn't have any vacancies left, and if it did, it would consider those living in the region first. Practically, this means that I can't work in the region because I don't live there . . . and I can't live there because I don't have work. Joseph Heller would love it.

In England it is simple: schools advertise; you apply; you get - or you don't get - the job. In Scotland, you will be lucky if you ever reach this third stage at all. I am confident that if an individual school were allowed to consider my application, I would stand a sporting chance, but I find that road blocked before I've even reached it.

I accept that there must be fierce competition for any teaching posts in Scotland. All I ask is to be allowed to enter that competition.

Frances Kirkpatrick has taught in a Worcestershire comprehensive for three years. She now lives in Scotland.

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