Newly qualified teachers facing unemployment despite lockdown demand for staff

17 June 2020, 09:00

Newly qualified teachers in Scotland are facing possible unemployment
Newly qualified teachers in Scotland are facing possible unemployment. Picture: PA

By Fraser Knight

A number of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in Scotland say they could be facing unemployment next term, despite retired staff being asked to return to work to help with socially distant classes.

It comes amid claims a number of councils have told NQTs there are no jobs available for them, as they complete their probationary year of teaching – which is guaranteed by the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

But with preparations underway for pupils to return to classes on 11 August with a ‘blend’ of in-school and at-home learning, the Scottish Government has asked local authorities to explore bringing back retired teachers to cope with the demand for more staff members.

That’s left young teachers ‘in bits’ with stress and anxiety after they received letters telling them there are no vacancies – even under the same local authorities they have been working during their probationary year.

One teacher in the West of Scotland told LBC News: “A lot of us feel very much like we have been overlooked and we can’t understand why you would ask somebody who has left a profession to come back, as opposed to people who are excited, eager and enthusiastic to start.

“If those jobs are not available and I’m not kept on by the council I can only assume I will need to find a job outside education just now until jobs become available – and that’s a scary thought.

“Schools are a constant throughout this – education is always important – so you go into what you think is a lifelong career and now within a year I’m questioning if that’s even possible.”

Parents and teachers have called on the Scottish Government to scrap the two-metre distancing rules for pupils when classes return, saying it will reduce face-to-face contact.

Nicola Sturgeon says she wants local authorities to ‘maximise’ in-class time for pupils when they return to school after the holidays, adding blended learning should not be in place for longer than it is needed.

But Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland said: “It’s hugely dispiriting when at the end of a five or six-year journey to become a qualified teacher to then not have the prospect of a permanent post.

“We think there’s a moral duty to make sure people who have spent their time to be qualified are being used by a system – which is under pressure.

“We are scratching our heads around why this issue seems to be there because if we’re agreed there is a need for more teachers then surely the money can be found to make sure they’re employed, and young people benefit.”

On Sunday, Education Secretary John Swinney had warned it was "unlikely" that education would return to normal in the next academic year - prompting dismay from parents.

He said that was because "we'll have to maintain the social distancing approaches for some considerable time to come".

Plans being drawn up by councils could see some youngsters spend as little as one day a week in class, it has been reported.