Waive hello to probationers

24th August 2007 at 01:00
THERE HAS been a big increase in uptake of financial incentives designed to attract probationers to rural and remote parts of Scotland.

The growing popularity of the preference waiver scheme is resulting in a more flexible workforce, and new graduates are more likely to get one of their first two choices of local authority for their probationary year, according to official figures.

But local authorities are reporting mixed success some are delighted with the scheme, while others say it is not enough to overcome recruitment problems.

Probationers can receive a pound;6,000 bonus by choosing the preference waiver and agreeing to accept a probationary post anywhere in Scotland.

A total of 306 probationers have signed up to the scheme for 2007-08 up from just 20 in 2004-05, its first year, when the award was pound;4,000. Even after the award went up to pound;6,000 in 2005-06, only 51 signed up to the scheme. In 2006-07, that had risen to 250.

Meanwhile, Scottish Government figures show there has been an increase in the number of teachers being allocated their first or second choice of local authority for their probationary year. The rate this year for secondary teachers was 81.02 per cent, up from 76.5 per cent in 2004-05. The rate for primary teachers has remained at about 92 per cent since 2004-05. "There have been improvements in matching supply and demand over the years," said a spokesperson. "There is always room for improvement though, and we'll continue to work with the GTCS and councils on that."

One supporter of the scheme is Marilyn Richards, Orkney Islands Council assistant director of education, who said: "The preference waiver is useful because although we get people who opt for Orkney, it's not always in the subjects we need. The Scottish Executive has been good in trying to fill vacancies in the sense that it is providing us with the probationers we have asked for in the subjects we have asked for."

This year, Orkney has 15 probationary teachers, three of whom all secondary teachers chose the preference waiver. Three probationers also arrived in the authority last year by means of the waiver, also secondary teachers.

But while the waiver scheme has been a big success in some parts of the country, its impact has been more muted elsewhere.

Bruce Robertson, Aberdeenshire Council's director of education, learning and leisure, agrees that it is an "innovative" scheme but insists it cannot solve recruitment problems on its own.

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