29/12/2010 - Scotland: It’s time to tackle the scandal of new teacher unemployment!

IN a report in The Herald, (Glasgow), of 27 December 2010 the very serious problem of newly qualified teachers being unable to find work in Scotland is highlighted.  Official figures released last month paint a shocking picture.  In 2009/2010 fewer than one in six of newly qualified teachers found a full-time, permanent position which is the lowest figure ever recorded.

Teachers’ leaders have called on the Scottish Government to establish the exact size of the problem as there are many thousands of teachers who qualified in earlier years who did not find work in the profession.  Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, said:

“While I welcome the Scottish Government’s ambition for councils to create sufficient vacancies for the new teachers coming on the job market next session, there is a significant backlog of unemployed and under-employed teachers from previous years who must not be forgotten”.

The origin of the crisis lies in plans originally created by the previous Labour administration at Holyrood to cut class sizes by training thousands of additional teachers.  Combined with a projected fall in Scotland’s population, (is this really happening?), the increase in staffing levels in schools would eventually result in smaller numbers of pupils per class.  Where things have gone wrong is that local councils for financial reasons have actually reduced the number of teachers that they employ.  With the present economic climate this trend is unlikely to be reversed.

Mike Russell, Scottish Government Education Secretary, has pledged on behalf of his administration and local councils to “do all we can” to address the problem of teacher unemployment and claims that “…the draft budget agreement with councils includes a commitment to a real reduction in teacher unemployment….”  Time will tell if his actions match his words.

Solidarity welcomes the recognition of the problem of new teacher unemployment by the Scottish Education Secretary and will observe with interest the efforts to tackle this issue.  It is nothing short of a scandal that thousands of people have attempted to enter the profession after years of study only to have their hopes of a career dashed by cutbacks.

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