Out-of-work teachers angry over ‘waiting game’ for jobs

Thousands sign letter to education secretary calling for overhaul of the teaching recruitment system.

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More than 2000 teachers are calling for an overhaul of the recruitment system in Scottish schools.

The group said there was an “unacceptably large” number of unemployed teachers who were “desperate” to find jobs.

They have written an open letter to education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, and teachers are being encouraged to tweet her en masse to call for urgent action.  

The Scottish Government said it would do “everything it can” to maximise the number of available teaching jobs.

But Scottish Teachers Working Together for Fairer Employment, made up of more than 2000 teachers, believes much more needs to be done. 

The group said the number of teachers looking for work far outstripped vacancies, and that permanent posts were difficult to find.

There is also concern that an increasing number of probationary teachers – graduates who are guaranteed a job for their first-year post-degree – is only exacerbating the problem. 

‘Utterly depressing and heartbreaking’

Sean Kenny has just finished his probationary year at a primary school in Dunfermline.

He went through an interview process with Fife Council back in February, and although the interview was successful, he’s since been told there are no vacancies.  

He is now facing an anxious “waiting game” over the summer holidays, filling out other applications and hoping that something will come up, otherwise having to rely on supply work or relocating. 

Sean KennySTV News
Sean Kenny

“Through no fault of my own, to have no prospect of employment, is really soul destroying,” he told STV News.

“There’s certainly no guarantee of employment come August. I’d describe the experience as utterly depressing, it’s also heart-breaking and more recently I feel expendable.”

What does the open letter say?

Scottish Teachers Working Together for Fairer Employment writes: “Classes across Scotland are bursting at the seams. There is an influx year on year of new probationer teachers flooding the system.

“[They] have essentially become cheap labour with absolutely no hope of achieving permanent employment following completion of their probationary year…

“For those without the year-long “luxury” of a temporary contract are left to rely on supply work and are essentially employed under zero-hour contracts, whilst in pursuit of a rewarding professional career.

“There are thousands of teachers who cannot secure mortgages or car loans, plan maternity leave or make long term commitments due the uncertainty of our employment.

“Those of us unlucky enough to be on temporary part-time contracts, we have had to seek additional employment elsewhere just to pay our bills and put food on the table.

“Sadly, many of our colleagues have even had to leave the profession due to the instability of employment.”

How did the Scottish Government respond?

A spokesperson said: “While local authorities are responsible for the recruitment and deployment of their staff, we firmly believe we will need all possible teaching resources at our disposal to compensate for any loss of learning suffered since the start of the pandemic.

“We are working closely with {councils association] COSLA regarding the employment of teachers for the next academic year, and will continue to do everything we can to maximise the number of jobs available for teachers, including permanent posts.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville,STV News
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville,

“Since the start of the pandemic we have committed over £200m of funding to support the recruitment of additional teachers and support staff to aide education recovery “

“As part of our commitment to supporting the recruitment of 3500 additional teachers and classroom assistants, funding will be provided to local authorities to increase teacher numbers by 1000 and classroom assistants by 500 within the first 100 days of this parliamentary term.

“We have also committed to a reduction in class contact time for all teachers. This in itself should create a need for more permanent teachers and we will work closely with our SNCT partners to achieve this.”