Every parent will be concerned by our story today about the way budget pressures in schools are impacting on the way our children are taught.
It is not unreasonable for a headteacher to cover a class for a colleague in an emergency, or for older pupils to be left to fend for themselves for a short period occasionally. It seems, however, that these things are happening increasingly often and that is a concern.
Part of the problem is undoubtedly the low pay offered to the supply teachers who are increasingly needed to fill in the gaps. A teacher covering five out of six classes in a school day will get just over £66 for their day’s work, about the same as a supermarket checkout supervisor. In the circumstances, it is easy to understand why some, having gone through years of training to be a teacher, opt for the easier life of working in a restaurant or bar.
There is surely a case for the Scottish Government to reconsider the pay scales for supply teachers to combat the problem or to give cities like Edinburgh with a particular problem the freedom to supplement the rate.
It is a shame in many ways that the city’s new policy of encouraging teachers to move from school to school every five to seven years has become entangled in the debate over staff shortages. There is some truth in the suggestion that the practice could help to mask shortages. Encouraging staff to move schools more regularly could make it easier to recruit into some of the more challenging to fill teaching posts. But it would be easy to throw the baby out with the bath water here. Teaching is traditionally a profession in which many are inclined to settle into a job for life in one school.
Staying in the same post for decade after decade is bound to lead many teachers to become stale and uninspired. The idea of encouraging more movement is a good one, as long as it is not abused.