'I'll take anything I can get'

19th June 2009 at 01:00
The probationary teacher of the year still cannot secure a job

No matter how many accolades she received at the Scottish Education Awards this week, the probationary teacher of the year still cannot secure a job.

The secondary teacher named probationary teacher of the year at the Scottish Education Awards cannot find work.

Alice Thompson, who taught chemistry at Eastbank Academy in Glasgow during her induction year, was described at the awards ceremony in the city this week as "an extremely enthusiastic, highly creative teacher".

She was also praised for her ability to turn around disaffected pupils and her "meticulously planned" lessons. Ms Thompson, however, has so far failed to secure a post.

"Only one job has come up in Glasgow and that was in the independent sector at Jordanhill School. Something like this (the probationary teacher of the year award) is all the more significant because of the demoralising job situation - applying and not getting interviews, and reading that 400 people are applying for one job."

Ms Thompson, 27, decided to go into teaching after starting a PhD at Strathclyde University.

The forensic and analytical chemistry graduate quickly realised research was not for her. The area of her work she preferred was carrying out demonstrations in undergraduate labs, so she swapped her PhD for the PGDE.

"I loved my student placements when I was at Jordanhill," said Ms Thompson. "A lot of people would come back and say: `I'm not sure this is for me'. I just thought: this was meant to be. And this year has just been phenomenal."

Since arriving at Eastbank, Ms Thompson has set up a chemistry club every Tuesday and created spelling glossaries for her dyslexic pupils. James Lee Oswald and Daryl Naismith (both in S2) accompanied Ms Thompson to the awards. They described her as "the best" and "brilliant". Her teaching methods made her stand out from the crowd, James explained. "She will involve you in everything," he said. "Sometimes if you don't understand, to actually do it helps you."

Daryl added: "She really cares about us all."

Last week, pupils at Eastbank handed in a petition to the headteacher to keep Ms Thompson at the school. They collected more than 100 signatures.

Ms Thompson said: "The fact that I enjoyed my probation year so much is keeping me motivated to stick it out and keep applying. I will take anything I can get because I really want to teach. I've no ideas about going back to academia and research - that is not even an option now."

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said the main reason it was not taking on new staff was because it needed to keep spaces open for next year's probationers. Last year the Scottish Government allocated Glasgow 254 probationers; this year it will take on 302. "We are delighted that Alice's achievements have been recognised. However, no probationer is ever guaranteed a job," she said.

The most recent survey carried out by the General Teaching Council for Scotland showed that, by spring this year, just 39.5 per cent of those who finished their probation in summer 2008 had found permanent posts.

The GTCS believes the prospects for next year will be much worse as the squeeze intensifies on local authority budgets

Almost nine out of 10 probationers - 86 per cent - were allocated to their first or second choice of authority for their induction year this session, according to the latest Government statistics. The bulletin on teacher vacancies and probationer allocations for 2009 also shows that the number of teacher vacancies on the survey date in February has almost halved in a year - 372 advertised posts, compared with 607 in 2008 and a peak of 1,164 in 2005.

A total of 115 posts were vacant for more than three months, although this is only 0.2 per cent of total primary and secondary teaching staff.

These figures will increase the pressure on Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop in relation to teacher recruitment, at a time when 3,400 probationers will join Alice Thompson in looking for permanent posts.

Historic occasion

The talent and hard work of teachers and schools in Scotland were rewarded this week at the eighth annual Scottish Education Awards.

The introduction of the new Homecoming Scotland Award, brings the total number of categories to 17.

Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said of it: "I am immensely proud to hear how schools are inspiring and celebrating Scotland's heritage and great contribution to the world."

For the first time in its history, the event attracted nominations from all 32 education authorities.

The winners of the 2009 Scottish Education Awards, which are run in partnership with the Daily Record and sponsored by the Scottish Government, are:

  • Teacher of the Year: Iain Houston, St Joseph's College (Dumfries)
  • Headteacher of the Year: Paul McLaughlin, St Ninian's High (Kirkintilloch)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: John F MacKenzie, Oban High
  • Probationary Teacher of the Year: Alice Thompson, Eastbank Academy (Glasgow)
  • Education Supporter of the Year: Lisa Goodman, Deans Community High (Livingston)
  • Ambition: Perth Grammar
  • Most Enterprising School, primary and early years: Mearns Primary (Newton Mearns)
  • Most Enterprising School, secondary: James Hamilton Academy (Kilmarnock)
  • Most Enterprising School, special education: Carrongrange School (Falkirk)
  • Best Enterprise: De An-diugh, Portree Primary (Skye)
  • Health and Well-being: St Kenneth's Primary (Greenock)
  • ICT Learning: Elrick School (primary, Aberdeenshire)
  • Greener Schools: St Leonard's Nursery (Edinburgh)
  • Schools for All: Kilcreggan Primary and Pre-5 Unit (Helensburgh)
  • International Schools: Perth High
  • Active Citizenship: St Paul's High (Glasgow)
  • Homecoming Scotland: Iochdar Primary (South Uist).

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