FOURTEEN primary teachers taken on in West Dunbartonshire to meet the Government's aim of reduced class sizes in the first three years of primary school will be asked to sign flexible contracts.
The council wants to employ a core group of permanent staff to move around schools according to pupil numbers. This would avoid the need to place teachers on fixed-term contracts, letting them go if they are no longer needed in a particular school.
The scheme comes as West Dunbartonshire faces defeat at an employment tribunal over the sacking of a home economics teacher at a Clydebank secondary. The verdict, expected shortly, could represent a landmark in the employment rights of temporary teachers.
Ann Clark, backed by the Educational Institute of Scotland, is claiming unfair dismissal and breach of contract after she was removed from a post at St Columba's High she held for six years on a series of fixed-term contracts. The job was made permanent and given to another applicant.
If she wins, it could open the floodgates for temporary teachers in similar positions to make substantial compensation claims against local authorities. The verdict, however, is likely to be challenged at an appeal.
Meanwhile, West Dunbartonshire wants to limit the number of temporary teachers on its books by placing the new primary staff on permanent contracts on the understanding they can be moved from school to school. The council already operates a similar system for supply staff who are expected to cover a range of schools.
"At a time of uncertainty in teacher supply and demand, when it is difficult to recruit teachers for short-term supply cover, it is considered appropriate to create flexible contracts in this way which respond to the changing needs of schools and create better conditions for the workforce than 'hiring and firing' through the use of short-term contracts," the council states.
West Dunbartonshire is demanding flexibility because of fluctuations in pupil numbers from year to year in P1-P3 classes. The council says it has almost achieved the Government's objective of cutting class sizes in these year groups to no more than 30. Eleven extra staff were employed this year.