No need to look further

5th October 2007 at 01:00
A "QUITE INCREDIBLE" number of new teachers suggests that Aber-deenshire Council is overcoming much-publicised recruitment problems in its secondary schools.

The authority has enrolled about 300 primary and secondary teachers in permanent or long-term temporary contracts since March.

Headteachers are reporting an increase in the number of high-quality candidates, while there has been a marked improvement in recruitment to English, science and languages posts areas that have been problematic in the past.

Only a shortage of candidates in maths, technology and home economics posts continues to cause some concern.

"It's incredible when you think of the figure," said Laura Mason, head of education development.

The success has been attributed in part to a decision to advertise posts early, but also to imaginative recruitment campaigns and a willingness of all those involved in education from headteachers to councillors to personnel and recruitment staff to pull in the same direction.

This year, the authority advertised posts in February and March, which saw several probationer teachers taken on permanently. Out of a batch of 32 full time secondary posts, 19 went to pro- bationers working within the authority already.

Meanwhile, teachers are being drawn to the area, thanks to recruitment campaigns that focus on quality of life in Aberdeenshire as well as information about teaching posts.

Bruce Robertson, director of education, learning and leisure, believes this is important in overcoming a prevalent sense in the central belt that "civilisation stops at Stirling".

"Enjoy Work, Enjoy Life", a recruitment microsite on the Aberdeenshire Council website, commonly uses attractive pictures of local landscapes and information about the area.

Signed letters from Mr Robertson can be read next to job descriptions. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that these personal messages, as well as the emphasis on lifestyle, have encouraged people to apply for posts.

Mr Robertson also pointed to the shared sense of purpose in Aberdeenshire, with headteachers, for example, assiduous in keeping council officials up-to date with recruitment needs.

The authority believes too that its programme of continuing professional development is a big attraction, including a new leadership programme with Aberdeen University for teachers who have finished their probationary year.

The council is also looking beyond Scotland.

Officials have travelled to Northern Ireland to promote Aberdeenshire, while adverts have been placed in newspapers in Poland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

The council is also hopeful in the coming months of attracting new teachers from the Republic of Ireland, where many graduates are looking further afield since only about 20 per cent manage to get full-time jobs.

Only a handful of overseas teachers have been recruited so far, but it is hoped that these efforts will gather momentum.

Mr Robertson was careful to stress that Aberdeenshire has not entirely overcome its difficulties in recruiting teachers.

It can be difficult, for example, to keep probationer teachers in the area after they complete their 10-month contracts, even though Aberdeenshire offers probationers a higher chance of permanent employment than many other authorities.

Sometimes it is not an unwillingness to work in Aberdeenshire that presents problems probationers have, for example, been known to encounter problems in getting a mortgage or a long-term let as a result of their short-term contracts.

Mr Robertson said he had a commitment from the Scottish Government and the General Teaching Council for Scotland to review the contract for proba- tioner teachers.

He would like to see the in-troduction of permanent, perfor-mance-related contracts for grad-uates. "The centres of population are in the central belt and the centres of higher education tend to be in the central belt; the proba tioner contract is only a 10-month temporary contract," he said.

"All of that mitigates against rural authorities."

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