Friday, December 19, 2008

Lesson Plan: Need to Get the Balance Right

It's like "The Portland Trip" episode of The West Wing when Labour education spokesman Ken Macintosh challenged education minister Fiona Hyslop earlier this week. He called on her to provide extra funds to help newly-qualified teachers who are struggling to find work.

Now I know this particular problem is nothing new. Indeed by younger brother amongst the various letters of professional qualifications after his name has a PGCE from Durham, which along with his MA from St. Andrews failed to secure him more than two years work as a teacher. Even when that probationary period was up he applied for jobs in all four corners of the UK, and I mean almost literally the four corners. Which for someone who had been married only two years to someone who was finishing their PhD in a set location was a real potential sacrifice to try and keep in the first profession he had chosen.

Now the fact that I know this happened before New Labour swept to power in 1997 shows that the problem that Mr Macintosh has highlighted is nothing new. Indeed it is something that has been around for longer than Labour have actually been in power. There is a glut of new teachers in certain subjects who have difficulty finding work while there is a shortage in other areas. There is a problem there that is for sure, but while it is true that some newly qualified teachers find it difficult to find work that is somewhat an issue with the planning of the training establishments making supply outstrip demand in their specialties.

Science and maths are areas that there is a major shortfall in qualified teachers, Mr Macintosh should really be looking for ways to encourage graduates in these fields into the profession (like the example muted by Charlie Young in that West Wing episode). He needs to work with Ms Hyslop to get an audit carried out of teaching needs in Scotland for the forthcoming years, to ensure these needs are adequately covered first and foremost.

If there are jobs available but other restrictions than area of expertise in newly qualified teachers taking up posts that are available, cost of housing etc then yes address those issues. But first you need to ensure that those who qualify are the right balance to meet expectations.

1 comment:

Ideas of Civilisation said...

The issue of particular subjects with staffing shortages is a worthwhile one to look at. As is the fact that certain areas of the country find it harder to attract staff.

However the problem is what this would actually lead to. In a free market (which teaching isn't and I'm not necessarily suggesting it should be) areas and subjects with a shortage would simply pay more to attract more staff.

That would of course lead to the scenario where teachers in one part of a school earned more than others and undermines all national deals agreed between the government and teaching unions. It would also undeniably lead to discord within schools.

Unless the government pursues some other model - building on the £8000 offered to new teachers to move - then the situation isn't likely to resolve itself anytime soon.

For instance they could offer additional grants to science and maths students to consider teaching after graduation, in much the same way as the Armed Forces do to specialist staff such as doctors and dentists.

But unless the government is really willing to do that my concern would be that we would have an audit which helps us in every way except how to fix it.

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