Local councils are responsible for the recruitment and deployment of their staff, and they have autonomy to provide incentives to their area as it is they, not central Government, that employ our teachers. I will continue to engage directly with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the issue.
However, the Scottish Government is committed to supporting recruitment of more teachers and is providing £145.5 million in this year’s budget to protect increased teacher numbers and to support staff across all local authorities.
Retention of teachers is key. Undoubtedly, the historic pay settlement that was reached earlier this year will go some way towards achieving that aspiration and underlining this Government’s commitment to our teachers.
A constituent of mine is concerned about the prospects for probationary teachers, including her son who completed his probationary period at a school in East Dunbartonshire and received an excellent report from the headteacher. However, when it came to interviewing for a vacant post, he was competing with newly qualified teachers with no probationary experience, yet he and other colleagues who were in similar positions lost out on jobs.
I understand that some councils have in place positive discrimination to benefit teachers who have successfully completed their probationary year within that authority. Does the minister agree that experience as a probationary teacher should be taken into account, and that lack of security is turning away many people who are desperate to take up the vocation of teaching?
T eaching is a really attractive career choice for many people. Scottish teachers are, as we know, following the pay deal that I outlined in my original response, which is the best in the United Kingdom.
I expect local councils that employ our teachers to recruit teaching staff in an open, fair and transparent manner. I discussed that matter with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities only this morning.
The teacher induction scheme is, of course, funded by the Scottish Government. It gives a one-year probationary replacement to allow teachers the opportunity to meet the standard for full registration. However, we have never provided a guarantee of future employment with a specific local authority. It has always been the responsibility of councils to recruit and employ their teachers based on local needs and circumstances.
I know that when I completed my probationary year—many years ago now—the job market was deeply competitive and people had to move to find work. I accept that not everyone is able to do that, including people who have young families. To that end, as I mentioned in my original response, we are, in this year’s budget, providing councils with additional funding, which is particularly focused on protecting increased teacher numbers. I mentioned that I discussed that with COSLA earlier today; I have also discussed it with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. I look forward to working with COSLA on the issue in recognition of the national challenge at the current time.
I n any job, promoting a safe and secure work environment with good and fair working conditions is undoubtedly a pull factor in recruitment. Teachers and trade unions have told us that heavy workloads and lack of non-contact time are impacting on wellbeing, and the national discussion was crystal clear that the Government must implement its commitment to increasing non-contact time. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s confirmation that the Government remains committed to doing that. Will she update Parliament today with a timetable for implementation?
I thank Pam Duncan-Glancy for that question. She raised the issue with me a number of weeks ago during one of our education debates or statements, although I cannot recall exactly which one. I remain very committed to considering the issue with—of course—our partners in the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.
The member mentioned workload and class contact. Both factors play into how we will take forward some of the key reforms that are coming not only from the national discussion but from the outputs of the Hayward review.
I will be commissioning an external piece of work that will consider and bring together a range of factors—including effective local and national teacher workforce planning, pupil to teacher ratios and the projected decline in the number of school-aged children in Scotland—to inform effective evidence-based workforce planning, which is hugely important.
We need to look at the issues holistically, because issues in some local authorities will not exist everywhere. We must ensure that we have in place an education workforce that enables us to progress our commitments on reducing class teachers’ contact time, on raising attainment overall, on closing the poverty-related attainment gap and on improving additional support for learning, while delivering maximum value for money.
The cabinet secretary knows that, across the country, there is a significant problem with unemployment and underemployment of, in particular, primary teachers. Now that she has been in post for a few weeks, has she got any understanding of how we can tackle that, including through dealing with supply? In other words, are we training too many teachers into the system? If so, how will we tackle the high level of unemployment in teaching?
Mr Rennie highlights issues that we face in relation to primary school teacher recruitment, on which I am well sighted. I have discussed the matter with the Scottish Education Council, and School Leaders Scotland has been taking forward work on the matter, which it presented to the Scottish Education Council a number of weeks ago. I am very keen to work more broadly with the General Teaching Council for Scotland on the issue, recognising the issues that Mr Rennie has spoken to.
It is hugely important that we have a better understanding of the national picture, because some of the issues that exist in the local authority that he and I represent will not exist, for example, in Dundee City Council, which takes a very different approach to teacher recruitment.
I am really keen to work with COSLA on the matter. I have met COSLA, as I mentioned in my response to, I think, Pam Duncan-Glancy. We will take that work forward in partnership—although of course I acknowledge that local authorities are, fundamentally, the employers of our teachers.