David Henderson finds education authorities becoming more proactive
"WE ARE TAKING it very seriously," Bob Cook says of West Dunbartonshire's recruitment campaign. The council is advertising "quite aggressively" on radio - and even on the backs of buses.
Mr Cook, one of the authority's education managers, added: "There is a feeling that West Dunbartonshire is the back of beyond and people would not find their way here. But you can get from the west end of Glasgow to West Dunbartonshire faster than you can travel from one side of the city to the other. We are putting the message across that it's a good authority to work for.
"Supply work provides the entry to the profession and supply teachers are important. They need to be looked after and feel part of the profession."
The campaign includes a leaflet and poster on teacher supply and working with the under-fives, and the authority is stepping up its presence at recruitment meetings in colleges.
West Dunbartonshire has created 14 permanent peripatetic supply posts to provide a flying squad for primaries and has plans for more. Mr Cook reports:
"We are saying to supply teachers that they are as important as other teachers, their work should be seen as their entry to the profession, and they shouldn't be content to remain as supply teachers.
"They will have full entitlements like any other teacher, full access to in-service training, and we will make sure they fill longer-term posts."
They will have a base school for staff development and be given a long-term contract when they finish their existing one, with permanent posts as the aim. "We are doing everything we can to ensure they have as good an experience as other probationers."
The council is also trying to improve the lot of supply staff who are not part of the permanent pool and is examining providing in-service opportunities for them.
West Dunbartonshire was forced to act because of the difficulties in arranging primary supply cover. "Headteachers were making up to 60 telephone calls and not getting anybody," Mr Cook says. "We now have a one-stop shop."
But he admitted that he was surprised at how few applications the permanent supply posts attracted. "You can see the day not far into the future where we could be running into serious problems," he predicted.
The authority is now trying to keep its supply lists up to date. Several hundred names are on file but other authorities are competing for the same people.
West Dunbartonshire has also been forced to call former teachers out of retirement. It has a general policy of not employing retired staff but has had to make an exception for primaries and for shortage subjects in secondaries.