Plea to support supply staff

5th February 2010 at 00:00
Government launches online CPD for those out of work, as teacher unemployment rises

Teacher unemployment hit its highest December point for five years last year, with 335 primary, secondary and special needs teachers signing on.

Worst hit were primary teachers, with 175 on benefits as compared to 140 secondary and 20 special needs staff.

The figures compare poorly with December 2008 when 80 fewer teachers were on the dole (255) and December 2005 when less than half the number were claiming benefits (145).

But they are a vast improvement on those published by the Office of National Statistics in August last year, when 720 teachers claimed unemployment benefit.

Teachers who fail to find work feel "deskilled and undervalued" and "many give up and look for alternative employment", a survey conducted by the national continuing professional development (CPD) team has found.

There was also a risk that they went "off the pace" in failing to keep up with new methodologies and assessment systems in schools, it said.

The survey, which focused on the availability of CPD for supply teachers, was carried out in October and completed by 24 of Scotland's 32 councils.

The TESS survey of probationers in August last year found that 520 of those who had completed their induction year were in supply work or on supply lists, out of a probationer total of 3,153 - more than the 477 who were in permanent jobs. But the supply figure will be higher, because only 23 of the 32 authorities could provide the information.

Now the national CPD team is calling on local authorities and schools to give supply teachers better support by issuing new advice and guidance on their CPD. A new online resource has also been launched by the Scottish Government, aimed at teachers struggling to find employment but keen to maintain their skills.

"CPD is important for all those involved in teaching our children and young people and that must include supply teachers," says the CPD team.

It recommends that local authorities consider providing a welcome pack for supply teachers, including recommended professional study; offer them contact with a base school; provide the chance to be involved in council- run courses and events at no charge, even if they are not currently employed; give supply teachers a Glow password; and take a positive view of requests to volunteer in schools.

In its Supply Teachers: Advice and Guidance 2010, the CPD team says schools which are prepared to act as base schools for supply teachers should offer them a mentor, and take responsibility for the personal review and development of those on long-term contracts.

The Government's latest resource, the CPD Step In website, was launched today and is available through the CPD Scotland site. It contains resources, a discussion area with chat, forum and web meeting tools, a facility to share resources, links and advice on professional review and development and examples of free, online CPD on Glow and beyond.

According to the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, the only way unemployed teachers are going to find work is through the retirement of older staff. But few councils were making use of the Government's pound;10 million teacher refresh scheme, said John Stodter, ADES general secretary.

"Only a handful of authorities are interested in taking up the refresh scheme, because it just allows councils to borrow, so it's still going to cost them," he said.

Class-size reductions were unlikely to lead to more jobs for teachers, Mr Stodter continued. "Even where councils are trying to reduce class sizes, they are doing so through efficiencies. Quite often, they will be reducing staffing somewhere else to achieve that target."

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