We're out here but where are the jobs?

Once upon a time - actually it was 2001 - a proclamation was sent out throughout the land that adults who retrained as teachers and jacked in their successful careers would be richly rewarded. And thus a plague of unemployed teachers, wasting their new-found experience, training and skills, were forced to spend their days doing short-term supply work across the land.

As one such primary teacher, with a wealth of teaching - and other "transferable skills" - laments: "I am 46, unable to get a full-time teaching post and, worse still, I'm a man."

Many schools have told me they would love to have a man. However, it always come with an add: "But they don't apply."

This is patently nonsense. I wrote to one national broadsheet after reading an article asking where all the male teachers had gone? I answered:

"Nowhere - we're all on supply."

Five years of short-term supply teaching, not just for agencies, has worn me out. Recently, I taught in a dozen schools across five local authorities in as many consecutive working days. Pupils and staff like and trust me but I don't even have time to draw breath, let alone teach.

What needs to be done, in my opinion, is the following:

* take teaching appointments out of individual schools' control and employ once again via the LA pool system, with teachers interviewed and appointed by the authorities, with vacancies filled by the teachers with the right skills and experience;

* stop training vast numbers of teachers without jobs for them to go to - full-time permanent jobs, that is, not shelf stacking in Tesco;

* make supply teaching agencies deduct and contribute to pensions, if requested. The Westminster government harps on about us putting more money towards our pensions yet allows teaching agencies to exclude their teachers from such provision; l pay supply teachers according to their experience and skills. One agency advert that recently appeared in The TES said it could find work for both NQTs and highly experienced teachers. But what other profession would pay each the same flat rate, and not even allow them to save for a pension?;

* raise the standing of supply teachers within the profession. We're largely seen as outsiders with skills and experience inferior to classroom teachers;

* use local teachers where possible. Why employ teachers from New Zealand, for example, when there are 100 unemployed or supply teachers within a 10-mile radius of the LA ready to work?;

* acquire job-specific trade union representation for supply teachers, either within the auspices of a national teaching union or independently.

I'm looking into the legalities and bureaucracy of forming my own. I'm more than willing to fight for my own rights. I pay pound;86 in union subs annually and my rights and concerns are ignored, on the whole.

This is one fairy tale invented from up above that certainly does not have a happy ending, unless we unite to make it one.

Email me if you agree: supplyteachingunion@yahoo.co.uk

John Edwards is a pseudonym. The writer is a supply teacher

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