Through thick and thin

17th August 2007 at 01:00
Despite not being able to find permanent work, many

probationers remain optimistic about their future in teaching

THE TESS was unable to detect deep-seated malcontent when mingling with around 60 probationers last week. Perhaps, surprisingly, even those who had failed to find jobs remained largely sanguine.

The probationers were chosen at random to represent the new intake of fully fledged teachers from the length and breadth of Scotland, at a graduation ceremony organised by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

There was frustration at the scarcity of full-time permanent posts in some areas, but also a determination to stick with teaching some even professed that there were advantages to supply teaching.

For others, the experience had been positive from start to finish. Hard as it may be to believe in some parts of the country, there are places where probationers routinely step into permanent posts.

Rebekah Stackhouse, 23, from Blairgowrie, had a "fantastic experience" as a probationer at St Serf's Primary in High Valleyfield, near Dunfermline, where she ended up after saying she was prepared to go anywhere in the country. After several interviews, she has a temporary post at Masterton Primary in Dunfermline. She knows only one person who has a permanent job.

"When I went into it at the start, I thought there were more jobs at the end of it that was maybe a bit naive," Miss Stackhouse said. "When I finished, I didn't know what was going to happen I was a bit scared. The uncertainty makes it really difficult."

She takes a pragmatic stance that "it'll sort itself out in the end", but adds that "a lot of people feel frustrated", particularly older students who gave up well-paid jobs to become teachers. Miss Stackhouse believes there should be a review by universities or the Scottish Executive to assess the number of trainee teachers being taken on.

But she stresses that the probationary year is preferable to leaving university to go straight into supply. "It's far better," she said. "There is very clear progression and consistent support. You get to know the students and the teachers, and they can support you much better."

Things have been more straightforward for 28-year-old Iain Watt, a maths teacher from Dunfermline, who spent his year at Stranraer Academy and has a full-time post in the same school.

"I was quite lucky," said the former civil servant with the RAF. "I ticked the preference waiver box and said I would take anywhere I was expecting to go to Stornoway or Shetland. I had no responsi- bilities, no mortgage, so it was easy for me to move, and I was quite happy to.

"Dumfries and Galloway offered brilliant CPD, and I got great support from the school. There were a few probationers there three in the maths department and we got work straight away."

Jordan Black, 22, from Nairn, spent his probationer year at Applegrove Primary in Forres, but has not found a permanent job. He admits that it was not until towards the end of his postgraduate training that he realised jobs might be hard to come by. Even so, he remains upbeat. "I'm not too worried," he said. "The benefits of supply are that you get a range of experience across a range of schools you get to know the area and across the curriculum and the age groups. You make something out of what you get."

Jenny Price, 28, from near Elgin, was a probationer at Burghead Primary, and has also failed to find a permanent job in Moray. "I'm quite happy to be on supply," she said. "I'll just take it as it comes."

Jo Clark, 35, from Islay, has not found a permanent post but she never expected to. She lives with her husband, a farmer, and three children on the island and, realising it might be some time before a job came up there, was unfazed at the prospect of temporary and part-time work. She intends to volunteer at schools to "keep my hand in".

For now, she remains buoyed by the positive experience of her probationer year at Port Charlotte Primary. "I had tons of support the staff were wonderful," she said. "You have to build a rapport with your own class and see how your planning builds children's learning over a period of time.

"It's a much better training experience than supply."

Mairi MacIver, 39, lives at Ness, on Lewis, with her husband and four children. She has managed to find two days of supply work as a Gaelic medium teacher. But she, too, is unperturbed at the lack of full-time work.

Mrs MacIver prefers to point out that, had it not been for distance-learning training she obtained from Strathclyde University, she would not have become any sort of teacher.

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