Our talent is in demand - just not here

12th August 2011 at 01:00

What a storm in a teacup all that fuss over last week's early SQA texts with exam results was. With newspapers desperate for summer headlines, they seemed to lose perspective of the quality of the exam system in Scotland.

No one wishes to be complacent about the record of successive Scottish Governments. Let's not forget that schools are returning this week to find empty seats in staffrooms where colleagues have been cajoled into redundancies or early retirement. Teacher numbers have dropped by 3,000 in three years and it remains to be seen how many new ones will be employed.

This year's probationers, fresh out of college, are apprehensive and excited about meeting their classes for the first time, working out their seating plans (p39) and whether it's OK to smile in the first two weeks - the TESS online forums are buzzing with questions and we hope to help them with answers. Then there are the post-probationers, not daring to expect a job and preparing themselves for the supply queue. And there are the supply teachers who have given up and flown off to pastures new.

This week's News Focus (p10) investigates the despair that drives these teachers out of Scotland and the reception that awaits them in other countries. Scottish teachers, it appears, are much sought-after abroad, if not at home. It's widely recognised that they receive high-quality training at university, good support through their probationary year and are well prepared at the end of it. How pitiful, then, that we can't employ them.

The cross-curricular skills being developed for Curriculum for Excellence are being welcomed in Dubai. One young ex-pat was asked to make her school's approach "cross-curricular", but the necessary conditions were lacking. There were no learning outcomes, no school action plan, no continuing professional development and no leadership, devolved or otherwise.

Quality leadership has been a significant legacy of the McCrone agreement, with a policy to instil it in all teachers and even pupils. Now, we are not only exporting our SQA exams to China and our teachers to the Middle East, we are also delivering these leadership skills to Africa (p16).

TESS has run stories in the past of Scottish teachers and pupils travelling to Malawi to help build schools. What we have not seen before is the vision that Glasgow's education chief, Maureen McKenna, has shown - that if teachers and pupils can help an African school, then why cannot a whole education authority share its know-how with its Malawian counterparts?

So while Scotland has much to resolve at home, in terms of teacher unemployment, working conditions and pension issues, it also has much to be proud of. If our education industry could only reap the full financial rewards of the talent we export, perhaps we could afford to employ it here.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor, gillian.macdonald@tes.co.uk.

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