Cheap but not cheerful

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Teachers and pupils will suffer as cash-strapped local authorities opt to take on probationers
Teachers and pupils will suffer as cash-strapped local authorities opt to take on probationers

A jobs crisis is predicted for new teachers, with some vacancies in primary and secondary schools being chased by hundreds of applicants.

Senior figures in education have told The TESS that the "log jam" has been caused by the Government's failure to implement its pledge to cut class sizes as quickly as anticipated; tight council budgets that are putting the brakes on recruitment; and a retirement bulge that has yet to materialise.

Unions fear that the Teacher Induction Scheme is being "manipulated" by cash-strapped local authorities that are using probationers as "stop-gap teachers" to avoid employing staff on more expensive permanent contracts.

"Rolling newly-qualified teachers" were having a detrimental effect on principal teachers, who were tired of mentoring them, and on pupils who were suffering from a lack of continuity, the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association's annual congress heard last week.

In Renfrewshire, where the council has proposed cutting six teaching posts in every secondary because of its tight education budget, the authority has offered to take 151 probationers in its secondaries next session, according to figures published by Schools Minister Maureen Watt in a parliamentary answer last week.

In response to a question from Ken Macintosh, Labour's schools spokesman, she said the authority had offered to take 35 secondary probationers, that it would pay for itself, and an additional 116, funded by the Government. This would translate to nearly 13 probationers in every secondary school.

"Having dispensed with experienced teachers, they want to replace them with probationers," said Ian McCrone, Renfrewshire EIS secretary, adding that such a move would be bad for learning and teaching.

A council spokesman said that the authority had been given only 81 probationers, half of whom would be Government-funded.

Councils seeking to cut teachers' jobs should not be rewarded with fully-funded probationer places, said Mr Macintosh. He called on the Education Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to give local authorities the money to employ more teachers.

"The Minister can't pretend she has responsibility for recruitment and training but that it's someone else's job to employ new teachers, when all the funding comes from government in the first place."

May Ferries, convener of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, warned: "Because of local authorities' budget difficulties, there is a squeeze on any potential growth of teacher employment, and that will hit the post-probationers."

Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said: "The extra bonus for places like Renfrewshire is that, as far as money goes, they can continue to pay teachers at the bottom of the scale. The bad news is that pupils will see one probationary teacher after another, year after year.

"The profession will lose enthusiastic teachers and the quality of teaching and learning will suffer."

Case studies,page 3

Leader, page 22.

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