A DESPERATE teacher has penned an impassioned plea to Alex Salmond highlighting the difficulties he has experienced finding a job.
Christopher Venditozzi wrote the highly personal letter to the First Minister after applying for more than 100 primary school teaching posts since qualifying in 2008, without success.
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Mr Venditozzi says a national over-supply of teachers in recent years is being exacerbated by councils who prioritise the employment of newly-qualified staff.
The 38-year-old, from Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire, who currently works as a supply teacher, said in his letter: "I have a fantastic rapport with the children whom I teach, but with no employment rights and no realistic prospect of finding a permanent job in the foreseeable future," he said.
"This is because the system of recruitment and selection of permanent teachers employed by local authorities is without doubt unfair and discriminatory against people like me, who find themselves in what is fast becoming the lost generation of teachers in Scotland.
"Within the two local authorities in which I do supply teaching, one is instructing headteachers to only employ ... the cheapest teachers, and the other is guaranteeing interviews to those finishing their probationary year within that authority, something never afforded me or many others some five years ago.
"With this policy of employing best value teachers – which artificially massages the Government's figures so that they can claim that newly-qualified teachers are getting jobs – not only is children's education suffering, but many experienced teachers are being left on the scrap heap."
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said the union was aware some councils were "keen" to recruit from their pool of probationers.
"This can mean new teachers may find their options varying significantly based on the area where they are placed during their induction year, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Closed recruitment practices may also reduce the opportunities for teachers with more experience," he said.
However, John Stodter, general secretary of ADES, which represents council education directors, said the practice was unlikely.
"Councils employ the best people and you would expect someone who has experience doing supply work across a range of schools to be valued when it comes to an interview," he said.
A Scottish Government spokesman added: "Individual employment decisions are a matter for local authorities and it is expected that they will strike a balance in recruitment of experienced and less experienced teachers.
"We have prioritised teacher employment and the local government finance settlement includes a joint commitment to maintain teacher numbers in line with pupil numbers."
Teacher unemployment has been one of the biggest problems facing the Scottish Government in recent years. The issue was partly caused by the SNP's policy of training more teachers to bring down class sizes as school rolls fell.
Instead, councils faced with smaller numbers of pupils decided to cut teacher numbers to save money as the impact of the recession became apparent. At the same time, teachers who were expected to retire stayed on as their financial future became more uncertain.
In order to free up more places for unemployed teachers, numbers being trained on postgraduate courses have been cut and extra money has been given to councils to increase teacher jobs.
Read Christopher Venditozzi's letter in full
November 3 2012
Dear Mr Salmond,
As a primary school teacher, I wish to draw your attention to just how bad the state of employment in Scottish education has become. Whilst I appreciate the huge challenges we all have had to face over the last five or so years, the lack of equal job opportunities has now reached such desperate proportions that I have no other alternative but to write you to ask if I could request an URGENT meeting with you in order to discuss the many issues and difficulties that cause grave concern to me and many others who face a similar situation.
Having left behind a career in business education in the University sector to answer the call of your new governmentin the summer of 2007 to become a Primary teacher after the SNP announced they were immediately creating more new teacher training places due to an apparent projected shortfall in teacher numbers – one of which I secured – I completed my PGDE Primary Education. However, after a subsequent successful probationary year, I have still been unable not only to secure a permanent full time job, but even be successfully leeted for interview for such a post. This is despite having applied for over 100 teaching posts since 2008.
I am a highly qualified, articulate, confident and experienced man with substantial life and work experience – the very attributes I was told the government wanted in mature graduates who were attracted to the teaching profession. I have a fantastic rapport with the children whom I teach, (STILL after 5 years as a supply teacher), but with no employment rights and no realistic prospect of securing such rights or finding a permanent job in the foreseeable future.
This is because the system of recruitment and selection of permanent teachers employed by local authorities (and your government) is without doubt unfair and discriminatory against people like me, who find themselves in what is fast becoming the lost generation of teachers in Scotland. It is now all but impossible for me to secure an interview for a teaching post because of the directives and criteria from local and national government forced upon education managers and Head Teachers due to the constant cuts in local authority budgets. Within the two local authorities in which I do supply teaching work, one (North Lanarkshire) is instructing Head Teachers to only employ best value (i.e. the cheapest) teachers, and the other (East Dunbartonshire) is guaranteeing interviews to those finishing their probationary year within that authority, something never afforded me or many others some 5 years ago.
In June 2012, East Dunbartonshire Council advertised just ten permanent supply posts through My Jobs Scotland. Yet again I was not considered. However, after the leeting had taken place, I learned that these 10 posts suddenly became twenty positions, 16 of which were awarded to teachers just finishing their probation year!
Just the other day, I was yet again turned down for a post in a school in North Lanarkshire where I had recently worked successfully for five months. Also turned down were two other internal applicants of this school itself, (one of which is a long-serving permanent part-time member of staff of this school who wishes to go full time now that her children are older), in favour of last year’s probationer who only now has three months experience as a fully registered teacher.
Furthermore, both these local authorities actively and without trying to hide it, encourage the breaking of service of supply teachers, particularly those on long-term supply to ensure they do not qualify for employment rights. The system is completely broken – it doesn’t work! The evidence of just these examples alone clearly demonstrates actions that discriminate against experienced teachers like me. Such actions are both wrong and immoral.
What is more, with this policy of employing best value (i.e. cheapest) teachers, which artificially massages the government’s figures so that they can claim that newly qualified teachers are getting jobs, not only is children’s education suffering due to the lack of experience in the workforce, but many experienced teachers are being left on the scrap heap by local authorities and the government.
All I and many others like me are left with is asking the question, ‘Why…’? All I and many experienced teachers like me want is a fair crack at the whip – to be considered based on merit and whether we are indeed the best person for the job. All I want is the opportunity to do the job I have sacrificed so much for, have (re-)trained for at considerable personal expense and want to do. All I want is the ability to make a living without the constant worry and uncertainty of thinking, ‘Will I get any work today’?
I very much enjoy teaching and do not want to leave the profession. However, now in my fifth years on supply, with the prospects of finding a job further away than ever, I am left feeling betrayed and duped by your government and its false promises of 2007. It is just not right that (all) teachers and other professionals should be treated in this way, especially when the skills they have to offer and the service they provide on behalf of the state and the country is so vital to the future prosperity of our nation. It is about time that the Scottish Government showed greater care and loyalty to the teachers of Scotland just as much as the teachers of Scotland show care and loyalty to their schools and the children they teach. It is time to end the employment discrimination of teachers completely – that I and so many others are now being discriminated against because we DO have experience, rather because we don’t have enough experience.
Once again, I would like to request an URGENT meeting with yourself as I have many productive suggestions on how such anomalies can be eradicated once and for all, putting teaching back at the forefront of the nation’s recovery strategy for the future so as to create a teaching profession truly fit for the 21st Century as is the government’s aim.
I look forward to hearing back from you in due course.
Mr Christopher Venditozzi
Registered Teacher, GTCS