'Political Rip van Winkles' still slumbering

25th June 2010 at 01:00
The scale of the teacher unemployment problem

It would appear from your news item, "Councils eschew Government's pound;10 million `teacher refresh' scheme" (June 11), that at last the Government has woken up to the fact that large numbers of teachers, who worked hard to obtain their qualifications and to pass their probationary year, now face unemployment.

Sadly, however, these political Rip van Winkles obviously have not grasped the scale of this problem. They hope, over two years, to offer 500 jobs across all sectors when one primary post in one small local authority attracts in excess of 400 applicants. "Drop" and "ocean" spring to mind.

As your report explains, local authorities, perhaps for very good reasons, largely did not take up this offer. In its modest way, South Ayrshire Council is able to offer 50 posts spread across all sectors, and is "delighted to be able to offer so many permanent posts for probationer teachers".

They are not delighted, however, to offer posts to the large numbers of unemployedsupply teachers, themselves recent probationers who, at the end of their probation, were advised to get on the supply list - supposedly to gain as much experience as possible in a variety of jobs which, in time, would enable them to get interviews and, ultimately, permanent posts.

These supply teachers go from school to school adapting to the needs, policies, planning formats, methodologies, organisation and personalities in each. Often they take difficult classes, as there is a higher incidence of staff absence due to stress. They strive to please, do all that is asked, usually offer more and deservedly earn excellent reports from their headteachers.

Then the system lets them down. Alone in the workforce, they have no possibility of attending continuing professional development courses (understandably, headteachers cannot commit funding for training teachers from whom the school will not derive the benefits, so this should be released from a centrally-held resource). Supply teachers are thereby at a disadvantage, as they are unable to fulfil specific CPD requirements set down by headteachers when leeting for interviews.

These supply teachers have been used, are now being abused and have to face another session hoping that somehow, somewhere, justice will prevail. It is a positive outrage and a discredit to the profession to which I once proudly belonged.

Retired headteacher, Name and address supplied.

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