Fears for teacher jobs as Glasgow threatens to break ranks on budget

26th November 2010 at 00:00
Agreement between local authorities and Government on provision of new posts shows early signs of falling apart

The agreement reached between council leaders and the Scottish Government to provide 2,800 jobs for new teachers - part of the Scottish budget proposals announced last week - already appears to be unravelling.

Glasgow has broken ranks and is proposing to increase class-contact time - an idea vetoed by Education Secretary Michael Russell in the lead-up to the agreement.

A leaked document from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, entitled The Government's Arithmetic, also appears to allow councils scope to cut a further 1,200 teacher jobs - despite Government promises that the deal would "help turn the corner on teacher unemployment".

Significantly, the paper predicts that the 2010 teacher census, due next week, will show there are now only 50,000 teachers in Scotland - down by nearly 3,000 from 2009 and by 4,340 from 2008.

The Cosla paper calculates that, in the coming year, some 3,000 teaching vacancies will come up through the normal processes of retirement or teachers leaving to have a family. In addition, there will be a further 2,800 vacancies released when the current cohort of probationers complete their induction year. That will mean 5,800 vacancies in total.

Under the agreement, councils have said they will provide full-time posts for all post-probationary teachers, in addition to the guaranteed places for probationers. But, as this year's intake of student teachers has been slashed by 1,000 to 1,800, councils would be required to provide only 4,600 posts, leaving a difference of 1,200.

"There are therefore 1,200 posts in Scotland that could be removed while still meeting the first two Government objectives," the document states. "In order to ensure that the third objective is met, Government is offering #163;15 million to councils to ensure that a number of less than 1,200 jobs are lost."

The third objective referred to is "an overall reduction in the total number of unemployed teachers". But sources suggest that a number of local authority leaders are baulking at protecting teachers' jobs over those of other council staff.

It is still unclear, too, whether all councils - particularly those led by Labour - will sign up to the agreement. If they refuse, the cut in their Government funding will rise from 2.6 per cent to 6.4 per cent.

Glasgow City Council this week signalled its defiance when it published its draft budget. It continues to call for an increase of one hour per week in teachers' class contact time - a demand also made by Cosla, but rejected by Mr Russell on the grounds that teachers needed time away from their pupils to work on Curriculum for Excellence.

Teachers' unions are watching anxiously to see how many authorities choose to "go it alone" - and face the Government's financial penalty. The fear is that authorities like Glasgow could walk out of Cosla and from the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, making the teachers' pay and conditions negotiations even more fraught than they are already.

Mr Russell insisted at the School Leaders Scotland conference in St Andrews that the additional #163;15m in funding meant there would be "a significant number of teaching posts to help address the longer-term problem of teacher unemployment". He described as "very disappointing" the response to the agreement from the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, had said of the deal, announced last Wednesday: "The budget-cutting agenda will lead to a cull of teachers on short-term contracts in order to create the impression that more new teachers will gain jobs next year. But recently-qualified teachers, many working on supply or fixed-term, will be cast aside and left on the scrapheap. This smacks more of job-rotation than job creation."

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, also expressed concerns about the impact of the agreement.

"Despite government funding directed at teacher numbers, we anticipate challenges in protecting teacher employment in the face of reducing budgets for many years to come, and of reducing pupil numbers in many areas," he said. "The risk is that other important parts of council services will pay the price."

Tony Finn, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, warned: "We have worked hard to attain standards of teacher education which have been described as 'world class' by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and which are much admired by other countries, and would recommend that care be taken to ensure that these high standards are not at risk of dilution.

"We therefore urge the Scottish Government to take time to consider the future professional needs of teachers, as well as the impact of change on teacher motivation and, most importantly, on the learning experience of young people in our schools."


Letters, p20


The main elements for education of the CoslaScottish Government agreement

- a pay freeze for two years;

- an increase in contact time for probationers - from 0.7 to 0.9 FTE;

- all supply teachers to be paid on the lowest point of the main grade scale, and only for hours worked;

- removal of salary conservation;

- the teacher leave year is moved to 40 days per annum for the calculation of family leave entitlements;

- entry to the chartered teacher scheme is frozen;

- the pupil-teacher ratio in P1-3 is maintained;

- sufficient full-time posts for the 2,800 teachers who will finish their probation in 2011;

- a reduction in the total number of unemployed teachers;

- an independently-chaired review of all aspects of the teachers' agreement, to report by June, 2011, and its recommendations implemented before August, 2012.

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