Scotland’s schools need you – unless you’ve taught abroad

17th August 2018 at 00:00
Despite the recruitment crisis, this biology and guidance teacher has found it challenging to get a job back home after working in an international school

I moved to Prague three years ago to work in an international school as a biology teacher. I ended up as a principal teacher of guidance, straight out of my newly qualified teacher year, as well as teaching biology. So, for three years, I’ve been both teaching and gaining experience of middle-management.

I got engaged in December and I’m moving back to Scotland to live with my partner. I have now secured a job, so my apprehension about moving home has been slightly alleviated. However, I cannot believe that the process was as difficult as it was.

I applied for both biology and principal teacher of guidance posts. Despite numerous applications and recommendations by schools to apply for guidance jobs, after about seven or eight tries, I wasn’t called for any interviews. I asked for feedback every time, but only a few schools provided this. I wouldn’t even call what I received “feedback”, more just reasons why I did not get the job – “We had more experienced candidates with more relevant experience.”

On talking with Scottish teacher friends, it would appear that the applications were a formality and schools were planning to appoint internally. What a waste of time. For one biology job, I flew from the Czech Republic to teach a lesson and have a face-to-face interview. The school ended up giving the job to their current probation teacher. I understand that she probably knew the students and procedures already, but it wasted my time and money (and that of others) for nothing.

Continual rejections are rather demoralising. The internal politics of the schools appears to be that if you have been teaching internationally, your application gets discarded immediately, regardless of your skill set, knowledge or ability to teach. In terms of feedback, one school’s positive comment was another school’s negative. The whole application process is so inconsistent. For one council, I was submitting almost 4,000 words; for another, you would be lucky to put in 500 words. How does this let you communicate your abilities fairly and sell yourself to employers?

This really is the tip of the iceberg – the process of getting back on to the General Teaching Council for Scotland register and getting the PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) checks done has been a nightmare. I thought Czech bureaucracy was bad.

It appears that once you have completed your PGDE, you must swear allegiance to the Scottish education system, never to leave, or be banished for ever. OK, that’s hyperbole, but it seemed that way after every rejection. The fact that I have first-class honours degree, a master’s with distinction and a Moray House PGDE (from 2014) meant nothing.

I’ve been disappointed and, at times, disgusted with the whole affair. Scotland needs to step up and help homegrown talent – but also ponder why teachers go abroad in the first place.

Euan Gray is a biology teacher

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