The chances of probationers finding permanent teaching jobs in Scotland continue to plummet, as the latest figures put the number at 39.5 per cent, down from 51.3 per cent at the same point last year.
The General Teaching Council for Scotland, which carries out the twice- yearly surveys in the autumn and spring, believes the prospects for next year will be much worse as the squeeze intensifies on local authority budgets (P1).
Schools Minister Keith Brown put the best possible construction on the findings, pointing out that it showed 89.4 per cent of the 2007-08 crop were in teaching posts in Scotland by the time of the survey in April. This is up from 79 per cent on the previous survey in October, which Mr Brown described as "encouraging". But it is down from the 92.7 per cent at this time last year (covering the 2006-07 group).
The latest survey confirms, however, that almost half of the 89.4 per cent - 49.8 per cent - are in temporary or supply work, compared with 41.2 per cent last spring. Just under 20 per cent are on supply alone, with many obtaining only occasional jobs. Some of them may also be merely on the supply register, getting little or no work.
A breakdown of these figures indicates that only 26 per cent of those in supply posts were in jobs for six months or more.
The position in primary is much worse: only 30 per cent are in permanent posts, compared with 62 per cent of secondary probationers.
GTCS chief executive Tony Finn made his concern clear, albeit guardedly: "We are currently producing some highly-talented new teachers on a probation induction scheme which is widely regarded as world-class. I am sure everyone will agree, it is important that these new teachers get the opportunity to put their skills into practice and to contribute new ideas to the development of the profession."
But Mr Brown seized on one of the statistics, indicating that the number of new teachers not in employment had halved from 21 per cent in October last year to 10.6 per cent in April. "This is continued evidence of the fact that teaching posts occur throughout the year and, if every new teacher obtained a post in August, we would now be facing a teacher shortage," he commented.
The minister also pointed out that permanent posts had risen from 30.6 per cent in October 2008 to 35.7 per cent in April, demonstrating that vacancies were being filled by new teachers.
Mr Brown added: "We should remember that no profession guarantees graduates a permanent job immediately. Teachers in Scotland are in a privileged position in that they are guaranteed one year of employment after leaving university. This is a system without parallel in other professions and envied around the world."
The GTCS survey comes with a health warning since the response rate was only 39.4 per cent - 1,334 out of 3,389 probationers. It means we can only be certain that the 39.5 per cent of probationers with permanent jobs is 39 per cent of 39 per cent.