Lack of teachers cancels Edinburgh school classes

Schools are reportedly struggling to find cover for staff who are off sick. Picture: PA
Schools are reportedly struggling to find cover for staff who are off sick. Picture: PA
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A NEW pay offer has been drawn up in a bid to tackle a shortage of supply teachers which has forced classes in Edinburgh to be cancelled.

Schools are struggling to find enough stand-in staff after their pay was slashed to a “Tesco-rate” of £80 a day after tax.

Now a proposed deal would give supply teachers a better deal as part of a wider pay settlement for teachers that would see salaries rise by one per cent this year and a further one per cent the following year.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association said some schools which had not been able to find cover for sick staff had had to resort to supervising pupils in their assembly halls instead of teaching them, Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray labelled the situation as “very concerning” .

City education chiefs have launched an emergency recruitment drive in an effort to solve the problem after supply numbers dropped from 923 in May 2012 to 738 this year.

They said they were not aware of schools having to cancel classes and that this had not been raised as a concern.

But union leaders said teachers were shunning pay rates inferior to those offered to Tesco shelf-stackers. Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents headteachers, said: “I wish the council every success in trying to recruit – it’s better than doing nothing – but this is largely outwith Edinburgh’s control.”

Union leaders said supply teacher shortages stemmed principally from a 2011 pay deal reached by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, which limited the payment of even highly experienced short-term supply staff to the lowest grade on the main pay scale.

This means a teacher brought in to cover short-term absence could now expect take-home daily pay of around £80. Other local authorities have increased their rates in the face of crippling supply shortages.

“It’s interesting Edinburgh is saying this is due to there being more permanent posts on the ground,” said Mr ­Cunningham. “I would have thought that’s pretty far down the list of reasons. What supply teachers get paid is a pittance – but they are essential for the wellbeing and the running of a school.”

Mr Murray said: “This is a consequence of a decision made some time ago. Following the 2011 pay deal a lot of my constituents who were supply teachers gave up because it was not worth their while. Local government is chronically underfunded and this needs to be addressed.”

Under the proposed deal, short-term supply would be redefined so teachers would be paid the lower rate for three days, rather than five, before going on to the full rate of £145. Teachers on the lower rate would also be paid ten per cent extra for preparation and correction.

A council spokeswoman said: “There were fewer supply teachers on our books last year, which was due to more teachers finding permanent and long-term temporary positions.

“This has been addressed thanks to an a recruitment campaign, and we are not anticipating any significant challenges for the coming year.”

Low salaries to blame for lack of cover in Capital

FOR one Edinburgh teacher, who asked not to be named, shortages in supply teacher cover in the Capital are the result of low wages.

She said: “I know that it’s a struggle and I know colleagues of mine, who do supply and made a huge effort to go wherever, now say it’s not worth their while because of the pay scale.

“Highly-qualified teachers who would have been at the top of the scale are now back to square one.” She added: “I know schools are very often phoning around but there won’t be anyone available. Quite often, promoted staff are then having to cover classes, meaning their jobs are not being done.”