My wife has finally managed to get herself a full time permanent post for next year. She is a primary teacher with a wealth of experience. When we were planning to leave Africa and come home we had assumed that she’d have no trouble getting a job and I would. How wrong we were. What has been most surprising is that most of her applications didn’t even result in an interview. When she has managed to get in the door, her interviewers sing her praises!
This experience has caused me to reflect on the Scottish approach to appointing newly qualified teachers. We both assume that one of the reasons it has been so hard for her to find a post is the system of guaranteeing a job for one year to NQT’s; this combined with the large number of teachers being trained these days.
We have been on the receiving end of this system before. When we last lived in Scotland, my wife had a temporary contract which she hoped would soon become permanent. I went off to England to train as a teacher, hoping to come back afterwards. While I was down south, the guaranteed system came in. My wife could no longer have her job, and there was nothing for me to apply for. So we had to move to England.
I can see the attraction of offering trainees a year’s work, especially when so many are being trained. But I have to wonder if it is the best thing for the schools and pupils of Scotland, or the trainees themselves. It results in a very high turnover in quite small departments that may otherwise have benifted from some stability. And the trainees often seem to be sent somewhere quite far from where they live. You also then have this strange system whereby NQT’s in one council are favoured for permanent jobs over NQT’s from other councils and experienced teachers.
These thoughts then naturally bring me to comparing back to England. Now, I think I was quite lucky with my job in England, but I can only speak for my own experiences. I was appointed in the February of my PGCE year, and it was a permanent post from September. I was supported massively by my department, school and LEA in my NQT year and beyond. From day one I knew I’d be working in this school for a number of years and committed great effort to my work knowing that the department and myself would benefit from those efforts. It is very settling knowing that your contract isn’t coming to an end.
The broader conclusion I have drawn from this comparison is the ideological differences between Scottish and English education. England seems to be more right wing – devolved responsibilty for LEA’s and schools. Whereas Scotland seems more left wing – more centralised decision making from council HQ and the Executive.
Is this an unfair conclusion to make? Which is better anyway?