However bad it is here, it's worse elsewhere

17th June 2011 at 01:00

Probationers in the mould of Richie McColm are exceptional. Not only does their teaching ability shine out, but they are rare in having secured a permanent job for next year (p6). Scotland's probationer of the year clearly deserves his good fortune in the employment stakes, but he should not be the exception to the rule.

The depth of the teacher employment crisis is laid bare this week by the General Teaching Council for Scotland's fourth annual spring survey of probationer employment. This year, one in five of last year's probationers secured a full-time job in Scotland; last year, it was one in four; the previous year, just over one in three; and four years ago, one in two.

These statistics make for depressing reading - for every statistic on the page is a person who has invested time, effort, hope and probably tears as well to qualify as a teacher. Their hopes are now invested in the Scottish Government's deal with Cosla, the local authority umbrella body, to deliver a job opportunity for all 2,800 new teachers leaving probation this summer.

The deal comes with caveats, however. The jobs are not restricted to teachers who have just completed their induction year; anyone can apply, including the hundreds of recently-trained new teachers who have failed to secure permanent posts over the past few years.

So next year, there will still be some teachers scratching about for temporary or supply work. And some may find none at all. It will be cold comfort to them that others are in an even worse position. The plight of the Irish education system (News focus, p12) casts a new perspective on the situation in Scottish schools: 15 per cent salary cuts to be compounded by more next year, versus a pay-freeze; only one in 10 Irish teachers likely to get a permanent job next year compared with Scotland's statistic for this year of one in five and better prospects round the corner; and growing utilisation of unqualified teachers in Ireland while Scotland continues to maintain a "closed shop" of qualified teachers only in our classrooms.

That things could be so much worse elsewhere does not send a message to Scottish union activists that they should count their blessings. Instead, it has signalled the need to prepare for what they fear will be a further onslaught on their terms of conditions when the McCormac committee on teacher employment reports in September.

As the EIS convenes its first special general meeting in 11 years (p8), strike action at the end of this month by the NUT and ATL unions south of the border over proposed pension cuts presages a summer of discontent. Will pensions be a cut too far for normally-moderate Scottish teachers?

Elizabeth Buie, Deputy Editor

Gillian Macdonald is away.

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