Friday, 4 September 2009

Teacher's Lose Out, Pupil's Lose out, Who are the Real Winner's?

The Herald reported that newly-qualified teachers across the country are increasingly finding it almost impossible to gain full-time permanent posts, nothing new but still frustrating all the same. The situation has been apparent for several years, as a series of surveys by the General Teaching Council of Scotland has shown.

The most recent of these, published in June, showed that two-thirds of new teachers had failed to gain full-time permanent work in Scottish schools almost a year after qualifying.

However, what is alarming about the most recent developments is that local authorities have been accused of intentionally preventing new teachers from securing permanent posts because they have fewer employment rights.

In the past few weeks, The Herald has been contacted by newly-qualified teachers from local authority areas, including Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire, who claim their long-term supply contracts have not been renewed as they approach one year of continuous service.

Instead, the work is being given to teachers who have just completed their probationary year, which does not count towards employment history, or those who have already retired.

The timing is crucial, because working for a full year gives teachers the right to take a local authority to an employment tribunal or to receive a redundancy settlement.

In addition, under agreements between councils and teacher unions, staff who have been employed for more than one year acquire a right to seek a permanent contract of employment.

One teacher from Glasgow told The Herald: "There is a growing scrapheap of teachers who completed their probation two, three or even four years ago and are subject to this unethical policy of being passed-over for cheaper, inexperienced staff.

Glasgow also stands accused of failing to recognise teachers' rights to a permanent post once they have completed one year's continuous service, with the local branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland now seeking to take legal action against Glasgow City Council.

In a separate e-mail to The Herald, staff from South Lanarkshire raised similar concerns about the employment prospects of newly-qualified teachers.

"Teachers nearing the end of their continuous service had their contracts abruptly terminated two days before the end of term in June, therefore ending all employment rights," they said.

And in Renfrewshire, Wendy Alexander, Labour MSP for Paisley North, has taken the matter up on behalf of some of her constituents.

"Of more than 300 employees in our schools in the past two years, only four now have a full-time job teaching in Renfrewshire," said Ms Alexander.

The local authorities involved have all denied the fact that they are deliberately targeting newly-qualified teachers and have pointed to a number of other, unavoidable, factors for the trend, including the expected decline in teacher numbers due to many reaching retirement age has failed to materialise, with senior staff holding on for a few additional years of work because of the current economic climate.

In addition, Glasgow City Council pointed out that continued falling school rolls and school closures and mergers has led to a surplus of teachers and a reduction in the number of supply vacancies in the city.

Excuses or ‘reasons’ by local councils doesn’t really seem to help the issue in my opinion. I understand that there are too many teachers out there so why has the Government encouraged people into a profession or course of education that will ultimately leave people without financial security and work.

It’s also worrying to me as a parent to think that my daughter may be taught by several different ‘probationary year’ teachers when she starts school as students are all promised at least a year’s work when they graduate. So in order for this promise to be fulfilled are pupil’s really getting the best education they should be?

I am not suggesting that ‘probationary year’ teachers are not capable or competent but rather it seems to be an inefficient way to continually replace teacher’s especially when the one’s coming to the end of the first year are probably then ready and knowledgeable enough to continue and used to their class, then they are told they need to reapply for a job that statistics show they probably won’t get.

Instead because the work when you graduate guarantee, it seems that pupil’s and education are the one’s suffering, as well as the unemployed teacher’s – so in the end who’s benefiting? No one that I can think of.

Is it not better to have some kind of continuity in education? I remember at primary school in particular I only had two, maybe three teachers and it was better for parents who got to know their child’s class teacher and for young children who received minimum disruption and change.

I don’t know how the Government or maybe more appropriately the local council authorities can turn this around but I am sure on one thing – it’s a lose lose situation at the moment for many teacher’s and pupils alike.

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