Positive new outlook for new teachers

28th August 2015 at 01:00
TESS survey finds probationers have best prospects in eight years

Job prospects for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are better than they have been since at least 2007, a TESS survey can reveal.

New figures show that about 44 per cent of last year's probationers were in permanent posts at the start of the school year, well above the previous high-water mark of 32 per cent in 2007, when TESS started its annual probationer survey.

This year's numbers are also a dramatic improvement on the low point, 12 per cent in 2010.

Teaching trade unions and other professional organisations have welcomed the results, although they stressed that many new teachers still do not have permanent posts and will rely on intermittent supply work.

The figures also show dramatically different situations across Scotland. South Ayrshire, for example, had 52 probationers in 2014-15 but could offer only three permanent contracts. Aberdeen, where oil-boosted property prices have partly contributed to recruitment problems, was another case entirely: it had 82 probationers but, by taking on others who spent their induction year elsewhere, filled 109 permanent posts.

"It is encouraging that there is a continuing increase in the number of NQTs employed on permanent contracts," said Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union. "This shows that steps taken to address the problem - including guarantees on teacher numbers that were secured by the EIS - are continuing to deliver better opportunities for NQTs."

Supply and demand

TESS received replies from 30 of Scotland's 32 local authorities - Dundee and Clackmannanshire provided no figures - which between them took on 2,381 probationers last year. Of these, at least 1,053 (44 per cent) are now in permanent posts and 555 (23 per cent) are in temporary jobs.

Tom Hamilton, the General Teaching Council for Scotland's director of education, registration and professional learning, said: "This kind of influx of new teachers is always good for the system, as they bring a freshness of ideas, enthusiasm and inspiration."

About a third of last year's probationers are unaccounted for. The experience of previous years suggests that some will secure permanent or temporary jobs as the year goes on.

Despite the good news, Mr Flanagan said that more needed to be done to secure "improved employment prospects for the still significant number of new teachers who don't gain permanent full-time jobs".

The union is pushing for nationally set minimum staffing levels in all councils and a rise in supply teachers' rate of pay.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said the figures marked "a welcome improvement", but added that postgraduate students remained concerned about the uncertainty surrounding permanent employment.

He also fears that some local authorities rely too much on probationers to plug staffing gaps, then ditch them for the next batch of induction-year teachers, adding: "It is no wonder many leave the profession before they really start their careers."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said it was "delighted" with these results.

Its own figures show that 80 per cent of post-probation teachers found some sort of employment in 2014, including temporary jobs, compared with 66 per cent in 2007.

She added: "We have made educational attainment our priority and teachers are absolutely vital to this. That is why we acted to safeguard teacher posts for the next year by committing a pound;51 million package of funding for Scotland's local authorities to maintain teacher numbers and pupil-teacher ratios at 2014 levels in 2015-16."

`It helps you to shine that bit more'

Kirsteen Kneeshaw, pictured left, was the only technical studies probationer in Dumfries and Galloway and found herself in such demand that at one point she was offered a job in Aberdeenshire on the spot.

The jobseeking experiences of 29 fellow University of Glasgow technical students varied depending on where they sought work, although most have secured permanent or temporary posts, some in private schools.

Ms Kneeshaw's netball coaching skills were useful in strengthening bonds with pupils beyond the classroom. "It also helped me to see how other schools and teachers teach," she says.

She urges probationers to get involved in extracurricular activities: "It does really help to make you shine that wee bit more."

Ms Kneeshaw has a temporary post until next summer at Douglas Ewart High School in Newton Stewart, where she spent her induction year and "very supportive" colleagues made the case for keeping her on.

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