Declining job figures for new teachers: 'alarming'

10th December 2010 at 00:00
The proportion finding permanent contracts drops further, as primary teachers are worst hit

The proportion of probationers moving on to permanent jobs continues to decline, according to the latest survey from the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) described the figures as making "alarming reading". But Education Secretary Michael Russell welcomed them as evidence that the position had "stabilised".

The GTCS report, based on a snapshot of the employment position in October, showed that only 17.7 per cent were on full-time or part-time permanent contracts, compared with 23.4 per cent during the same month in 2009. This contrasts significantly with the equivalent of 43.5 per cent in October 2007, just after the SNP Government came to power.

Prospects are particularly dire for primary probationers, of whom only 15 per cent were in permanent jobs two months ago, compared with 37 per cent of those in secondary.

The largest single group are those who have not been able to find a teaching post in Scotland, or chose not to - 27 per cent, against 12 per cent in October 2007. This represents 379 new teachers, of whom 256 said they were "actively seeking" teaching posts in Scotland.

The GTCS findings indicate a slightly better position for probationers than the findings of the annual survey conducted by The TESS last August. This showed that only 12 per cent had found a permanent post, compared with 32 per cent four years previously.

But The TESS survey is based on returns from all 32 education authorities, whereas the GTCS survey relies on responses from probationers themselves, of whom only 48 per cent replied - 1,400 out of a possible 2,911.

The council warns that this makes a full assessment of the position difficult since "there is no way to tell whether those who did not respond to the survey were more successful or less successful in obtaining employment than those who responded".

Anthony Finn, GTCS chief executive, commented: "We are concerned about the continuing fall in the number of new teachers gaining permanent employment, especially when the highly skilled and enthusiastic teachers who graduate from the teacher induction scheme have much to contribute to the development of our new curriculum."

He also said he was "disappointed" at the planned reduction in support for newly qualified teachers in their induction year, from 30 per cent of their time in school to 10 per cent. This was included in the deal struck between local authority leaders and finance secretary John Swinney in his draft budget.

"Scotland has worked hard to attain standards of teacher education, which have been described as world-class by the OECD and which are much admired by other countries," Mr Finn said.

"It is important that difficult budget pressures do not lead to decisions which could result in a significant dilution in the high standards of the induction programme and, consequently, put at risk the quality of the learning experience of our young people."

Mr Finn nonetheless applauded the other part of the deal that committed local and national government to find posts for the estimated 2,800 probationers who will be looking for jobs in August after finishing their induction year. But this agreement is not yet secure in all authorities (TESS, November 26).

The Government insisted that this agreement, coupled with the restrictions on the numbers going into teacher training, would make it easier for probationers to find jobs in the future.

Officials pointed out that, even now, the overall jobs figure for probationers in the GTCS survey showed that three out of five, or 59 per cent, were on employment contracts of one kind or another. Most supply and temporary work, however, lasted less than a year.

The Government also reiterated its regular defence that teachers' job prospects get better as the year goes on. This was reflected in the follow-up survey, which the GTCS conducts each spring. Last year, the 23 per cent of probationers who had permanent jobs in October 2009 rose to 30 per cent by April this year.

But an EIS spokesman declared: "What we are witnessing is the creeping casualisation of the teaching profession, with teachers increasingly being employed on short-term contracts with inferior conditions and scant job security.

"This is bad news not only for new teachers, but also for Scottish education and the pupils in our schools who have to deal with constant change to their teachers and the difficulties with continuity that this inevitably causes."

Mr Russell commented: "After falling for four consecutive years, the proportion of post-probationers in full-time teaching has now stabilised. This is consistent both with recent Jobseeker's Allowance figures being lower than this time last year and with the teacher census results showing that the loss of teaching posts is slowing down."

  • Original headline: Declining job figures for new teachers make `alarming reading'

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