Probationer blues

21st August 2009 at 01:00
Trainee teachers completing their induction year face bleak prospects in the jobs market

Only one in seven of last year's probationers have found permanent primary or secondary school posts this session, the annual TESS survey reveals. This compares with around one in five last year and one in three in 2007.

Glasgow, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde have failed to find any permanent teaching posts for probationers.

Even Scotland's probationer of the year in the Scottish Education Awards, Alice Thomson, has only been guaranteed a year's work after completing her induction year as a chemistry teacher in Eastbank Academy, Glasgow (TESS, June 26). She is on a temporary contract to work on A Curriculum for Excellence, as is Nicola Rooney, a runner-up in the awards, who was a primary school probationer in the city.

The gloomy picture is replicated across the country. Just two probationers got permanent posts in Aberdeen, three in East Dunbarton- shire, four in South Ayrshire and five in Stirling.

Two years ago, Clackmannanshire found permanent jobs for the highest proportion of probationers (32 out of 39, or 82 per cent); this year, that had dropped to seven out of 40, or 17.5 per cent.

No authority has been able to place more than half of its probationers in a permanent job. Orkney did best, finding posts for 44 per cent; Fife and Dundee topped the table among the mainland councils, with 36 per cent in permanent jobs.

Angus and Dumfries and Galloway both offered permanent contracts to around 30 per cent.

West Lothian employed 29 per cent of its probationers on permanent contracts, but Gordon Ford, the council's director of education and cultural services, admitted he was disappointed more could not be offered work. Two years ago, proportionally twice as many of its probationers (57 per cent) were offered permanent employment.

In the past, the Scottish Government has told new teachers they must venture beyond the central belt in order to find work. Even in the most rural and remote areas of the country, however, jobs appear to be scarcer.

Marilyn Richards, Orkney's head of quality development, said a lower rate of permanent employment than last year was caused by older teachers failing to retire as predicted.

Western Isles Council admitted there were fewer employment opportunities this year, having employed 15 probationers last year but only giving permanent jobs to three.

In Highland, the number of probationers filling permanent jobs has more than halved from 49 in 2008 to 21 this year.

The prospect of getting any type of job fluctuates dramatically by authority, but more than half have succeeded in getting a permanent or temporary post, or potential supply work - up from around 45 per cent at a similar stage last year.

Secondary teachers are almost twice as likely to find a permanent job as primary teachers: more than 20 per cent found permanent work at that level (273 out of 1332 probationers) against less than 11 per cent at primary (196 out of 1821).

West Lothian Council's Gordon Ford blamed the recession for teachers not retiring. With housebuilding slowing down, it also meant rolls were not rising as quickly as anticipated. Public spending cuts were inevitable and, if local budgets were hit, then teacher numbers could fall as class sizes rose.

Fife put the highest proportion of probationers into permanent posts of any mainland authority, but that was attributed partly to a factor over which the council had no control: stable school rolls. Ken Greer, education executive director, said it was also cutting class sizes in P1-3 "when funds allowed" and had a "highly-developed workforce planning strategy".

A Scottish Government spokes-man said: "Recruitment picks up with the re- opening of schools, as local authorities make adjustments to their staffing requirements. Also, post-probationers may take up job offers in a different authority."

Case studies

Helen Primrose, 29, is unable to find work. She did her her probation last year as a geography teacher at St Columba's High in West Dunbartonshire, but hopes to qualify to teach maths as well. To do so, she needs to serve an additional 13-week probationary period teaching maths, but the work will be hard to come by, she predicts. She has applied for six jobs teaching geography and had two interviews, both of which were unsuccessful. Her name is on six supply registers.

"I loved my probation year," she said. "My Standard grade and Intermediate classes exceeded all expectations in their exam results, which was an amazing feeling. I'm raring to go again, but there were eight probationers in our school and none of us got anything."

Lisa Bayliss is doubly-blessed: not only did she secure a post teaching French and German at Keith Grammar in Moray, where she served her probation, but just before the summer, she became acting principal teacher of the department because her principal teacher is moving to another school. "There's another girl coming to do supply until they advertise the post," said the 25-year-old.

Also 25, Lois Wright did her probation year at Monifieth High in Angus and has a permanent post as an English teacher at Carnoustie High, her old school. Her head of department is the same teacher who taught her Sixth Year Studies when she was at school.

Gillian McLean, 31, who did her probation year teaching French and German at Lenzie Academy in East Dunbartonshire, warns that new teachers have to look beyond the central belt if they want to find work. She is moving to Perthshire, where she will take up a permanent post in her subject at Strathallan School, living on campus.

"Three or four out of my whole class have jobs," she says. "You could count on one hand those who have something lined up. Because I have no ties, I was happy to go anywhere. You can't really rely on anything coming up in the central belt."

Twenty-two-year-old Adam Smith has been given a temporary contract working 0.3 at Mount Carmel Primary in East Ayrshire where he served his probation, and 0.5 at St Sophia's Primary in Galston. His contract will be reviewed after a year.

Local authorityProbationers 2008-09Total employed 2009-10 in permanent jobs





Aberdeen City2320276
Argyll and Bute481165923
City of Edinburgh21519*5134034
Comhairle nan Eilean1531230
Dumfries and Galloway882713141336
Dundee City7627**19440**3
East Ayrshire74615na20
East Dunbartonshire733**003**3
East Lothian85642na11
East Renfrewshire101927017
Glasgow City226000na75
North Ayrshire10519136na16
North Lanarkshire21215510na65
Orkney Islands1883545
Perth amp; Kinross80206143312
Scottish Borders50139459
Shetland Islands1520271
South Ayrshire65404819
South Lanarkshire232411031na68
West Dunbartonshire98624na22
West Lothian1634726216528

  • *Includes one post-probationer employed in a special school
  • **Figure includes four permanent supply staff also recorded in permanent jobs column
  • ***Figure only includes permanent supply jobs; an unspecified number of probationers will receive temporary supply work
  • ****Actual total will be larger as not all authorities could give figures for supply work
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