Job woes risk `losing teachers to the system'

22nd August 2014 at 01:00
Some 70 per cent of new teachers are yet to find a permanent post

More than seven out of 10 new teachers have so far failed to secure permanent jobs for the 2014-15 school year, according to the TESS annual probationer survey.

The proportion - 29.7 per cent - of post-probationers who have permanent posts represents a slight improvement on the previous year, when it stood at 28 per cent. It is also the highest total since 2007, the first year the survey was conducted, when 32 per cent of new teachers found work.

But professional organisations and teaching unions have cautioned that the slight upward trend does not tell the full story and hundreds of newly qualified teachers will begin the year either unemployed or having to rely on supply work.

"It is encouraging that the survey identifies an increase in the number of newly qualified teachers employed on permanent contracts," said the EIS teaching union's general secretary, Larry Flanagan. "This shows that steps taken to address the problem have continued to deliver better opportunities for newly qualified teachers."

But he added that "much more" needed to be done to secure better employment prospects for the majority who had not found jobs, "or we will see an increase in the number of newly trained teachers who become lost to the system".

A total of 29 of the 32 Scottish local authorities responded to the survey. Almost all councils provided a full set of data, revealing that of last year's 1,865 probationers, 554 have secured permanent primary or secondary posts while 555 are in temporary employment.

Aberdeenshire, Dundee and Stirling provided no information in response to questions submitted by TESS at the end of July.

Alan McKenzie, spokesman for the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "It's heartening to see the figure going up but we should keep a lid on our enthusiasm. We really do need to think about the two-thirds of teachers who are not finding secure work."

The prospects of finding work varied according to subject, with teachers of history, modern studies and religious and moral education having for some time struggled to find jobs, Mr McKenzie said. He added that there was also evidence last year of newly qualified science teachers finding it harder to secure a post than in the past.

Mr McKenzie said that the picture across the country was varied, with some authorities - particularly beyond the central belt - finding it more difficult to recruit teachers.

The contrasting situations in Aberdeen and North Lanarkshire underline the stark differences between local authorities around Scotland. In 2013-14, Aberdeen took on 80 probationers and gave permanent posts to 82 post-probationers. Among its 61 primary recruits were 29 newly qualified teachers who had fulfilled their probation year elsewhere. By contrast, North Lanarkshire had 156 probationers but gave permanent contracts to only six, all of whom were secondary teachers.

John Stodter, general secretary of the education directors' body ADES, indicated that plenty of jobs were available in some parts of Scotland. Last year, Aberdeenshire was forced to try recruiting staff from as far afield as Canada and Ireland in an attempt to find teachers willing to move to the area, he noted.

"It's a modern phenomenon that people are less willing to move, perhaps because of economic circumstances or social habit," he said. "I assume there is a huge cost in moving, but 20 years ago people were much more prepared to do so to get that first job."

All the councils that replied said they now advertised some posts outside their own local authority.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "All sources of information indicate that employment prospects for newly qualified teachers have been steadily increasing since autumn 2010, following action by the Scottish government to address oversupply of teachers.

"Teacher unemployment in Scotland is the lowest in the UK, with Jobseeker's Allowance claimant count figures showing continuous improvement. The Scottish government has increased the number of student teacher places by 880 over the past three years and we are working closely with councils, who are responsible for teacher recruitment, to make sure we have enough teachers to meet the demands of primary and secondary schools across the country."

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which has previously carried out research into probationer employment later in the school year, has always stressed that the number of teachers in permanent jobs rises as the year progresses. A GTCS spokesman welcomed the upward swing in post-probationers finding work, adding that the new cohort was one of the highest-qualified the profession had known.

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