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Why train more teachers when we can’t get jobs, asks Angus teacher

As potentially 1,700 more students begin teacher training, there are few jobs outside supply for those already in the profession.

Teachers without permanent jobs struggle to get mortgages and are putting off having children, she says. Image: DC Thomson.
Teachers without permanent jobs struggle to get mortgages and are putting off having children, she says. Image: DC Thomson.

An Angus teacher facing another year of supply work says a lack of permanent primary school jobs is putting lives on hold.

Unable to get a mortgage for a more suitable home for her family, she says others are putting off having families due to the uncertainty.

Some, she says, have been offered redundancy or redeployment – one as a refuse collector.

So she is angry that universities are ‘churning out’ more teaching graduates when so many qualified primary teachers are out of work.

She says: “This is a career I really wanted and I worked hard to get my qualification. So to leave it because there are no jobs would be heart-breaking.”

The teacher wants to see recruitment to primary education courses at universities including Dundee and Stirling paused.

But is it that simple? And why train more teachers when there are so few jobs available?

What is happening?

The Scottish Government has pledged to recruit 3,500 more teachers during this parliament.

It has also set a target of enrolling 1,734 students for primary education courses for 2024/25.

But after a guaranteed probation year in a school [the teacher induction scheme] new teachers struggle to find jobs.

Of those who completed their probation last year, only 16.6% Scotland-wide were in a permanent teaching post the following September.

Locally only 10.5% of Angus probationers from 2022/23 were in permanent jobs in September.

For the coming academic year there are no permanent teacher vacancies in Dundee primary schools and only 2.8 (full-time equivalent) temporary posts.

Angus Council says it is recruiting eight teachers on permanent contracts, which is more than it had anticipated earlier in the year.

It has been allocated 21 probation teachers and Dundee 28.

Lives on hold

The Angus teacher is distraught to be on the supply list yet again.

She said: “Some people have been in this situation for four years now and have had only temporary positions or supply every year.

“It is putting people’s lives on hold.”

Employment uncertainty for many teachers makes getting a mortgage difficult. Image: Shutterstock.

She says the lack of permanent work means she must remain in a house which is unsuitable for her child.

She said: “Mortgage lenders won’t look at my wage so we are stuck here and can’t move house.

“Other people are having to put off having children or planning a family because they won’t get maternity leave.

Children ‘deserve continuity of staff’

“My suggestion is to pause the PGDE (post-graduate diploma in education teacher training programme) until this is sorted out.

“Surely taxpayers’ money is better spent than on redundancy for newly qualified teachers.

“Surely children deserve experienced teachers and continuity of staff.”

Another Angus teacher told us that they go through a “lengthy and stressful” interview process each year.

Universities are continually churning out teachers and there are no jobs.”

Anonymous Angus teacher

At a recruitment meeting earlier in the year they said teachers were told they would be entitled to redundancy or could go on the supply list.

The teacher said: “It seems absolute madness to invest in staff year-on-year then punt them for cheaper labour.”

Teachers on probation are paid £6,435 less than the starting salary for teachers post-probation.

“Every year so far I’ve taught in a different school sometimes two,” the teacher said.

“It’s a lack of continuity for all people involved with schools, temporary staff, permanent staff but most importantly the children.

“Universities are continually churning out teachers and there are no jobs.”

What does Angus Council say?

Angus Council says it is supporting all newly-qualified teachers and temporary staff in finding work. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

Angus Council pointed out the the number of newly qualified teachers in each area is set nationally.

A spokesperson said: “Staff data sets are part of a complex staffing equation which has to take into consideration teachers leaving post due to a number of factors, for example, illness, retirement, career breaks.

“Acknowledgment can be given that a stable workforce offers less opportunity for NQTs at the same time as balancing continuity of learning for children and young people.

“Angus Council is committed to supporting all NQTs and temporary staff to gain employment and holds robust recruitment exercises regularly.

“For staff who have not had their contracts renewed we have committed to two individual meetings as part of a job matching and evaluation programme.”

‘We need more teachers’

Would pausing the teacher training programme help?

No, according to the teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland. The additional 3,500 teachers pledged by the Scottish during this parliament are needed, it says.

Those teachers, the union says, are needed to meet another government commitment to reduce class contact time. They are also needed to help meet increasing additional support needs and tackle pupil behaviour.

Stuart Brown, assistant secretary, said: “The EIS sees this as not just a manifesto commitment but an absolute requirement that there are more teachers in the system.

“This would start with those people out there who have worked extremely hard and deserve a job getting those jobs.”

‘Not the career they were sold’

Acknowledging the financial pressures councils are under, he said: “We would call on the Scottish Government to use the powers at its disposal to raise the revenue to relieve some of the financial pressures caused by austerity.”

He said it is wrong that new teachers face such precarity of employment they are unable to buy homes or start families.

“That’s not the vision of a career they were sold.

“It’s also not good for kids to have inconsistency of approach or teaching and it’s not good for schools.”

New student targets

Intake targets set by the Scottish Government for teacher training programmes take into account pupil numbers, teacher churn and trainee retention rates.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While the recruitment and deployment of teaching staff is the responsibility of local authorities, the Scottish Government is doing everything it can to help councils maximise the number of jobs available for teachers, including permanent posts.

“In 2024/25, we are providing local authorities with £145.5 million to protect teacher numbers and support children’s education.

“While we cannot direct teachers where to work, it is important to note that teacher vacancies arise across Scotland throughout the year and we are aware that there are areas of the country with jobs available.”