Probationers need prospects

12th July 2013 at 01:00
Call for councils to advertise jobs beyond their local authority areas

Councils in Scotland have been encouraged to advertise teaching vacancies outside their local authority areas amid fears that new teachers are being "frozen out" of jobs.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland has written to local authorities urging them to make jobs more widely available after probationer teachers complained that they were missing out on posts.

Probationer teachers in Scotland do not choose where they spend their induction year: their preferred location is just one factor when placements on the one-year induction scheme are allocated. Other factors include council vacancies and the need to secure teachers for less populated areas, denominational schools and Gaelic-medium education.

Yet teachers' employment prospects are being determined by the "serendipity" of their induction scheme placement, according to GTCS chief executive Anthony Finn in a recent email to all directors of education, as some authorities are allowing only the probationers they train to compete for permanent jobs.

He urged them to consider the "wider implications" of this decision.

"We are aware of teachers (including single parents) who have been unfortunate enough not to be placed in their home authority who, despite excellent reports, have found themselves unable to seek a post near their home," he wrote.

In the email - sent in March, but revealed just this week - the GTCS also accused some Scottish heads of "breaching national agreements" by encouraging probationers to take up permanent posts before they were fully qualified. The GTCS was aware of "two or three incidences", Mr Finn said.

He said: "I do not wish to create alarm as a result of a handful of cases but would ask you nonetheless to note this point in case it becomes more commonplace."

But, according to senior figures in education, directors had cast "a Nelson's eye" over Mr Finn's missive. The GTCS had tried to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, critics said, in an area where they have no responsibility.

John Stodter, general secretary of the directors' body ADES, said councils were committed employers who offered a positive experience to probationers.

"It is up to the local authorities . to engage their workforce as they see fit," he said. "If authorities are advertising vacancies internally, this won't be targeted at teachers but will be part of a council-wide approach to reducing redundancies."

Scotland's teacher induction scheme provides a guaranteed one-year training post to every eligible student graduating with a teaching qualification from one of Scotland's universities.

It has been lauded internationally but probationers do not get to choose where they go under the scheme. They put down five preferences, usually securing a placement in one of their top two councils, or occasionally their third.

Other teachers relinquish any say over where they end up in exchange for a so-called preference waiver payment of pound;6,000 for primary teachers and pound;8,000 for secondary.

However, probationers who had travelled to "more distant parts" last year had used Twitter and other social media to advise this year's cohort against it because of the difficulties they experienced locating work "anywhere near their preferred locations" afterwards, Mr Finn said in his email.

This had led to a reduction in the number of teachers willing to be sent outside the central belt, he said.

The national induction scheme was never meant to "create unexpected barriers to employment in specific areas", Mr Finn said.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

RESTRICTED ACCESS

The extent to which Scottish local councils restrict applications for unpromoted posts to their previous probationers is being investigated by the EIS teaching union after the issue was raised at this year's AGM.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Our approach would be: if there are vacancies, they should be openly advertised.

"Where people accept their probation placement is not necessarily where they want to work and people who have spent a few years looking for a permanent post should not be disadvantaged simply because when they finished, there were fewer jobs around."

Photo credit: Getty

Original headline: Councils urged to flag up teaching jobs further afield

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