Ready to teach, but where are the jobs?

17th August 2007 at 01:00
Henry Hepburn finds out how the different local authorities fare when it comes to giving jobs to new teachers

IT IS misleading to refer to national trends when it comes to probationers, since patterns vary so much from council to council.

In West Lothian, 107 of last year's 163 probationers have found permanent jobs or supply work (66 per cent).

There were similar numbers of probationers in Renfrewshire 158 but only five have got permanent jobs or supply work, working out at 3 per cent.

Bruce Robertson, Aberdeenshire Council's director of education, learning and leisure, said: "It's a national scheme in name only, because it's not delivering the needs of the whole of Scotland."

Aberdeenshire has "more than enough" primary probationers who have qualified this summer, but the situation is less positive at secondary level. Across primary and secondary, 33 out of 120 probationers have so far found permanent jobs.

Some subjects in the authority are suffering, with the allocation of maths probationers only enough to fill about half of the available posts.

"This year, Aberdeenshire was asked to take the biggest number of probationers ever, and we were promised significant extra numbers of fully-funded places," he said. "Because a number of students have withdrawn from the scheme we have been hit financially because we are not getting these fully-funded places."

Mr Robertson, who is also president of the Association of Directors of Education Scotland, believes there are not enough incentives for new teachers to move around the country.

He thinks the preference waiver scheme which sees graduates awarded Pounds 6,000 if they agree to work anywhere in the country does not encourage Central Belt students to put down roots in other parts of Scotland.

West Lothian Council is consistently one of the most successful authorities at finding jobs for teachers after their probationary year.

"We try hard to keep our best probationers we monitor their progress closely," said Ronnie Boyd, West Lothian education officer who deals with probationer support. "If someone's doing very well, we obviously would try to keep that person."

In February or March, headteachers are encouraged to give "very blunt" information about the merits of probationers at their schools. Probationers are given detailed feedback about their progress, while there is plenty of continuing professional development support, including training on interview techniques.

This, Mr Boyd said, made probationers feel appreciated and encouraged them to seek permanent jobs there.

Statistics would also appear to back up suggestions that teachers are less than willing to work in some parts of the country. Dumfries and Galloway Council said it had "serious problems" because 20 probationers or 25 per cent allocated to the authority for 2007-08 had dropped out of the scheme.

Drew Morrice, Educational Institute of Scotland assistant secretary, refused to accept that teachers were inflexible. "If someone wants to work in Glasgow or Edinburgh and is told the only job is in Aberdeenshire, that's unacceptable."

He said local authorities could help by creating bigger pools of supply teachers. "There is scope for local authorities to be a bit more creative and take more people on a permanent basis but use them across the schools, for maternity leave and covering CPD."

Matthew MacIver, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, stressed that its figures last year showed that, by September, 70 per cent of all probationers were teaching in the same local authority in which they had spent their probationary year.

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