Editor's comment

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
This is not the first year that alarm bells have been rung over the job prospects of new teachers
This is not the first year that alarm bells have been rung over the job prospects of new teachers. Last year, Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, was sufficiently concerned about the employment market for new entrants that she provided councils with the funding to employ 300 extra teachers to help cut class sizes in P1-3.

A year on, fears that talented, motivated teachers will be consigned post-probation to the dole have not dissipated. In fact, they have grown. Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, has gone so far as to predict "meltdown".

Will Ms Hyslop step in again this summer with another tranche of money for more jobs? Few education leaders would bet on it. The funding landscape has changed irrevocably since the concordat was agreed by local and national government. Class size cuts have not materialised as quickly as anticipated, while budget cuts have squeezed staffing levels. A probationer is cheaper than a fully-qualified teacher - and some are even paid for by the Government.

The demographics show that large numbers of teachers are nearing retirement age in the next five to 10 years. The decision to train greater numbers of teachers - as has happened in recent years - therefore seems justified. But the figures do not seem to stack up right now. Education authorities are cutting school budgets wherever they can - and the most expensive part of their expenditure is salaries. That means that hundreds of new teachers are chasing the jobs that come up. Very soon, the post-probationers who have spent the last year doing supply cover will be joined by this year's cohort. The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new teachers will become disillusioned cynics and many will look for some other form of employment, or go back to the jobs they had before they were seduced by government promises of teaching jobs. What a waste that would be.

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