It has recently been revealed that the serious teacher shortage that Scotland is suffering from, that we have all been hearing so much about for a while now, is even worse than many people think.
It has emerged that various councils in the country have had no choice but to re-advertise for 2,275 teaching posts that they simply could not fill first-time round in the last three years. Staggeringly, just over 1,000 of those posts were from the 2016/17 school year alone.
A Spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrat, Tavish Scott, said that the crisis in teacher recruitment was a direct result of the past mismanagement of the sector by the SNP who he claimed had neglected the country’s education system for the past decade. As a result, he called for the government to review the terms and conditions of teachers in a bid to make the profession more appealing to newcomers.
You would think that teaching would already be pretty popular due to the fact that there are numerous bursaries available to eligible teacher training students, and because there are lots of lower cost Masters of Education Online courses which again bring the cost of becoming and progressing as a teacher more affordable to the average student. However, the fact that the average probationary teacher can only expect to earn £21,438 in their first year, £28,794 after three years in the job and as much as £34,200 only after six years, combined with the challenging conditions they often face, is obviously putting more people off becoming an educator.
Right now the Scottish National Party are in consultation about a huge overhaul of school governance. They are debating the prospect of giving much more power to school headteachers, which they think could help turn things around and not only attract more teachers into the profession but also raise failing standards. This is a big issue because figures released earlier this year show that only 67 per cent of P4 children from poor neighbourhoods in Scotland can read to a high standard, whereas that figure rises to 85 per cent in affluent areas. In fact, standards of Scottish education have been declining across the board for at least ten years now, with fewer than 50 per cent of all 13 and 14-year-olds even being able to write well. This is something very worrying in 2018 when Brexit has left things up in the air. We are all much more aware that our children will have to compete in an increasingly global market as they grow up and enter the world of work.The decline in education standards. Most people agree, began when the Scottish National Party cut 3,500 teaching jobs.
Many in the teaching profession are sceptical that the SNP will be able to make lasting change that actually has a positive impact on this or the teacher recruitment issue. In fact, only 7 per cent of employees who are part of the Education Scotland quango think that their own organisation is able to manage change effectively, while only 9 per cent believe that changes made by the group are mostly for the better.
In recent months, the country’s schools have often resorted to asking parents for help by letting them apply for maths roles.
In the run-up to Christmas 2017, it was even announced that primary-aged pupils in the Moray area may be forced to attend their schools part time due to a severe shortage of teachers in the area.
The man who obtained the shocking figures in this article, a Mr Scott, who used the Freedom of Information Act to blow the lid on just how dire the situation is, has said that both parents and children are sure to be worried that nearly 2,500 teaching roles have had to be re-advertised, sometimes multiple times.
He believes that, although there are sure to be times when applications are submitted for these roles, with applicants subsequently choosing not to take up the job, causing local councils to re-advertise, many teaching posts in the country are simply too difficult to fill, and he too, puts the blame squarely at the feet of the SNP, who he also believes have mismanaged the situation for far too long now.
The SNP have admitted that many Scottish councils have struggled to fill positions. They say that they spent £88 million in 2017 recruiting an additional 543 teachers to help fill the burden, even mentioning that Aberdeenshire has more teachers now than it has since 2012.
Teaching Makes People
A Spokesperson for the Scottish Government commented that they have decided to help the recruitment and retainment of teachers via their Teaching Makes People campaign. They are specifically focusing on recruiting more teachers in STEM subjects. However, there is still a distinct lack of confidence in the quango Education Scotland, according to a recent survey conducted by the civil service, with many not believing that enough can or will be done to ensure that head teachers have enough authority and support to turn things around and enthuse enough would-be teachers to come on board. Especially since, Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers — a union for teaching professionals — in the country are warning that teachers are getting ready to strike over pay and conditions. This is something that will hardly instil confidence into university leavers and career changers that a future in education is a bright one.
Of course, there are those who think that the appointment to the Quango of Gayle Gormon is a good sign that Education Scotland is facing up to the harsh realities of education in the country, and that some progress could finally be made. However, we all know that sometimes, changes in leadership are little more than exercises in PR and unless Ms Gormon actually takes real action on the issues plaguing Scottish teaching, the organisation could continue to be just as toothless as it has been up until now. Only time will tell.