Prospects are mixed for post-probationers

30th August 2013 at 01:00
An exclusive TESS survey shows that the proportion of new teachers in permanent jobs is growing, but many are still being left out in the cold. Julia Belgutay, Henry Hepburn and Emma Seith report

The proportion of post-probationers with a permanent job is at its highest level since 2007, TESS can reveal.

The figures taken from our exclusive annual employment survey show that just under 28 per cent of 2012-13 probationers have found permanent work, based on replies from Scotland's 32 local authorities. That means that 570 teachers out of a total of 2,049 probationers have gone straight from the induction year into a permanent post.

This represents a steady increase from the low of 2010, when the figure was just 12 per cent, although the high point remains that recorded in 2007, the first year of our survey, at 32 per cent.

But the figures we publish today still leave much room for improvement. The overall picture across Scotland has been described by education directors' body ADES as "complex", with very different trends around the country.

Some 600 post-probationers have temporary posts - at just over 29 per cent, this is the highest proportion TESS has recorded. This bears out the concerns that have been expressed about councils turning to long-term temporary posts rather than creating permanent ones.

Rather bleakly, that still leaves 879 probationers - just under 43 per cent of the total - who may be unemployed or reliant on eking out work from supply lists. Many are known to be turning to opportunities abroad, at the same time as authorities such as Aberdeenshire are trying to entice Canadian teachers to plug a shortage of staff ("Council looks abroad to solve teacher recruitment crisis", TESS, 26 July).

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said that the ongoing increase in permanent contracts for newly qualified teachers vindicated the union's push for measures such as the national minimum of 51,131 teachers. But he added: "Much more needs to be done to secure improved employment prospects for the significant number of new teachers who still don't gain permanent full-time jobs."

Mr Flanagan also flagged up a "dwindling number of supply teaching opportunities" in the wake of changes to supply pay and conditions, insisting that "the issue needs to be revisited".

While explanations vary, Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, believes the upward trend may in part be a response to what he described as "crisis" last session, with some local authorities deciding to create more permanent posts after apparently struggling at times to get enough cover for all schools.

Shrinking pool

Across the board, fewer teachers appear to be applying for jobs, making for a smaller pool of staff to draw on for short- term and relief teaching, said John Stodter, general secretary of ADES. "That may well explain why more areas are seeking to secure the workforce by offering permanent positions," he added.

Mr Stodter said that authorities outside the Central Belt, and those with schools spread over a large area, were finding it an uphill struggle to attract teachers, especially as a number of schools were also facing the prospect of rising rolls. "It all adds up to a complex picture of supply and demand that can never be precisely controlled and matched," he said.

The three successive years of rises in probationers finding full-time work have come after the Scottish government's 2010 directive to slash intakes to initial teacher education. A government spokesman said that teacher unemployment in Scotland was lower than anywhere else in the UK, and that jobseeker's allowance figures showed "continuous improvement".

The government has increased the number of student teacher places by 670 over the past two years, he added, and was working closely with councils to ensure that there were enough teachers to meet demand.

Anthony Finn, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said that the "slowly improving" picture of employment for newly qualified teachers matched the GTCS's own information - the council takes its own survey of probationers twice a year.

"Nevertheless, we should not be complacent," he stressed. "The issue of supply teachers needs to be considered and there is still some way to go before we get back to the sort of figures we experienced in 2007 and before."

Country file: how rural Dumfries and Galloway is tempting teachers to stay

Dumfries and Galloway is one of Scotland's most rural authorities, with long drives between schools and a handful of small towns that some might say lack the social life and cultural buzz to attract young teachers.

Yet it has been "fairly successful" in filling vacancies in recent times, says director of education Colin Grant. In the past two years, nearly half of probationers have moved into a permanent job and almost every other probationer has found a temporary post.

Many probationers are recruited through the preference waiver scheme, which offers extra money (pound;8,000 for secondary teachers, pound;6,000 for primary) to those agreeing to be sent anywhere in Scotland for their probation year. But the support that comes with Dumfries and Galloway's probationer programme persuades plenty to stay longer.

The authority holds monthly professional development events for all probationers on a wide range of issues, from teaching mental maths and creative thinking to how to manage yourself in the classroom. All are delivered by local experts, such as psychologists and experienced headteachers.

The authority also overcomes the problems of distance by connecting new teachers virtually. A probationer blog on Glow, the online network for Scottish schools, offers them the opportunity to find out about continuing professional development, as well as to share lessons and upload resources, pictures and short videos.

Click here for PDF table: Probationers entering permanent and temporary employment this term

Working 9 to 5?

  • 2,049 - Total number of probationers in 2012-13
  • 28% - Percentage who have found permanent posts
  • 29% - Percentage who have found temporary posts
  • 43% - Percentage who have not found permanent or temporary teaching posts
    • Samara Hoggan, 24, secondary history

      I've got a one-year 0.5 post at Stromness Academy in Orkney, where I did my probation year. I'll make up the rest of the week by teaching supply at Kirkwall Grammar School, although I don't know how long I'll have that for.

      I'm from East Lothian and applied for jobs around the east of Scotland, but nothing came up. Out of a class of 14 at the University of Glasgow, I know only one of us who's definitely got a full-time permanent post in Scotland, so it's not great. I also applied for a job in Inverness, but it seems as if some councils haven't been interviewing probationers from outside their authority.

      I'm really enjoying Orkney. I ended up here because I ticked the preference waiver box and it's fantastic - they're very supportive of probationers; very understanding that you're away from home.

      Lauren Paterson, 23, secondary RE

      I cried when I found out, on the last Tuesday of term, that I'd got a full-time permanent post at Kinross High School. I was absolutely ecstatic. It's where I did my probation year. I really didn't like the thought of handing over to someone else, as I get on very well with the students. I know how lucky I was to have that security going into the summer. Now my partner and I can start thinking about saving for a deposit for our own place.

      It seemed as though there were quite a few posts in my subject but they were further away, like in the Borders and Aberdeen, and ideally I wanted somewhere closer. I'm only just learning to drive and I get the bus to work from Dunfermline, about 12 miles away.

      Angela Donaghy, 27, primary

      I did my probation year at St Andrew's primary school in Dumfries and I've got a full-time permanent post there. I was in the first cohort studying the University of Stirling's professional education (primary) degree, where you specialise in languages. I thought it might help me to get a teaching job, or open doors to something else. I think it helped me to stand out a little bit.

      I've got Spanish and some French, and started the school's first Spanish club; the headteacher is really enthusiastic about languages. This year I'll be teaching P1-2, and I'm going to get them doing simple words and commands in Spanish over the year.

      Graham Kerr, 44, secondary history

      I was at the University of Stirling and quite a few in my class have got full-time permanent posts - I think 13 out of 15 have work to take them up to Christmas, at least.

      I've got the security of full-time supply work for the year at Bearsden Academy, where I did my probation year. I live the other side of East Dunbartonshire, in Bishopbriggs, and couldn't travel too much further as I have a family, including two daughters at secondary school. I'm just concentrating on the year ahead. I'll worry about the next one when the time comes.

      Photo credit: Alamy


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