Teachers swell dole queues

31st October 2008 at 00:00
`Terrible waste' of talent as number of teachers looking for work leaps by more than 50 per cent

The number of teachers looking for a job in Scotland has hit a three-year high, figures obtained by The TESS reveal.

Since 2005, the figure for those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has more than doubled, with the sharpest rise in the past year when it leapt by more than 50 per cent. Last month, 400 nursery, primary and secondary teachers in Scotland claimed the benefit, compared to 260 in September 2007 and 155 in September 2005, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The steepest rise was in the nursery and primary sector - from 60 to 210 since 2005. Secondary teachers fared marginally better, with 190 on the dole compared to 130 at the same time last year and 95 in 2005.

The findings reinforce growing concerns about employment difficulties faced by post-probationers and coincide with the publication yesterday of the report from the Teacher Employment Working Group, set up by Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, in the summer.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, lamented the "terrible waste" of talent illustrated by the statistics. "At a time when we need the addition of fresh, vibrant, well-trained, younger people in the profession to meet the challenges of A Curriculum for Excellence, they are being denied the opportunity," he said.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, claimed the concordat between national and local government made it impossible to carry out workforce planning effectively.

"Nobody is guaranteed a job when they finish teacher training, but the Government came very close to at least leading people to believe they would get a job," he said. "There is a moral contract between the Government and the people whom they enticed to go into teaching. Now there has been a serious breach of promise."

An attempt by the teacher and headteacher associations to return to national minimum staffing standards for teachers failed to get the endorsement of the teacher employment group, which was chaired by Joe Di Paola of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the employers' umbrella organisation.

"There was a realisation that such centralisation would run counter to the general philosophy that underpins the new relationship between Scottish Government and local government," said the report.

Glasgow has the highest number of teachers claiming Jobseeker's Allowance - 70. It was followed by Edinburgh with 40 teachers; North Lanarkshire with 35; and South Lanarkshire with 25.

No teachers were claiming the benefit in Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, the Borders, or, more surprisingly given the council's current financial crisis, Aberdeen.

A Government spokeswoman said local councils had sufficient resources to maintain teacher numbers. There should be "a steady flow of employment opportunities" over the coming months, she added.

The employment group concluded that the current workforce planning model was still broadly fit for purpose. But it warned that the greater freedoms accorded local government under the concordat with central government meant that councils would have to spell out their employment plans more clearly and co-ordinate more closely with the Scottish Government.

"There was some concern that the most recent national staffing level assumptions did not match local authority workforce levels as closely as has been the case before the change in Scottishlocal government relationships," the report acknowledges. Its key recommendations are that:

- the General Teaching Council for Scotland should conduct a longi-tudinal study on a cohort of probationers to gain a better understanding of "employment patterns and behaviours" beyond probation

- the Government, local authorities and the GTCS should find ways of gathering more reliable information on post-probationers each year

- research should be carried out on whether the current economic climate is affecting teachers' retirement plans

- local authority employers should, wherever possible, use post-probation teachers to fill supply vacancies rather than rely on recently-retired teachers

- councils should make more use of permanent supply pools to ensure that semi-permanent opportunities are available to post-probationers

- a review of early release opportunities, including winding-down arrangements, should be conducted

- the workforce planning group should review how secondary teacher demand is calculated

- the preference waiver payment, paid to probationers willing to teach in any part of Scotland, should be raised from Pounds 6,000 to Pounds 8,000 for those in the secondary sector.

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