Russell: Enough jobs for all teachers next year

24th June 2011 at 01:00
Assertion based on months of falling unemployment

The number of vacant teaching posts will match the number of teachers seeking jobs within the next year, Education Secretary Michael Russell has predicted.

His confident assertion is based on several months of falling teacher unemployment - but came two days after figures showed only one in five probationers had found a permanent job in Scotland this year.

Mr Russell told MSPs in a Scottish Parliament education debate that the number of teachers being trained would be "in alignment" with the number of posts available by next year.

And in a subsequent interview with TESS - his first since the SNP's resounding win in last month's Scottish elections - he asserted that he was not merely predicting enough jobs for new teachers, but for all teachers.

He was unfazed by a General Teaching Council for Scotland survey which showed only 20 per cent of probationers securing full-time permanent employment in Scotland, and highlighted instead nine successive monthly year-on-year falls in teachers claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

The jobs situation was "going in the right direction, and the statistics bear that out," said Mr Russell, who predicted that a "more normal situation" in the balance between jobseekers and jobs was not far off.

"Over the next year, we will get there," he said, while pointing out that even in a healthy jobs market there would always be some people seeking work.

Mr Russell based his optimism on the Government-imposed reduction in the number of student teachers going into teacher training. The fall in the number of graduates last September would be followed by a "much bigger" drop this autumn, he predicted. Another factor was the agreement reached with the tripartite Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers to ensure job opportunities for all post-probationers when schools return in August.

Mr Russell predicted that, after the summer break, there would be sufficient jobs to "absorb the number of post-probationers this year, and to do a bit more than that".

He is prepared to flex his muscles if the situation does not improve quickly enough: "I believe we have taken the actions to bring the numbers into balance, but if more action is needed I will take it."

He identified several reasons for the jobs crisis, admitting surprise at the way some councils had reacted to the concordat with the Government that allows more freedom over budgeting.

"Some have made decisions which were much, much more savage in this than anybody expected," he said.

Pronouncements from on high: Education Secretary Michael Russell tells TESS

- A "very substantial majority of those authorities affected" were backing his moratorium on rural school closures;

- He was unconcerned that schools consultation legislation afforded less protection to urban schools; a rural school was "of particular importance to communities where it might be the last public service";

- On suggestions from university sources that implementation of the Donaldson review of teacher education was too slow, Mr Russell flatly disagreed and pointed out that he was usually criticised for moving things on too quickly;

- He remains "open-minded" on how education authorities should be structured, and would be guided by evidence of what improved attainment.

Original headline: Russell: There will be enough jobs for all teachers next year, not just post-probationers

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