Hundreds of teachers have urged Scotland's new Education Secretary to tackle the "disgraceful" handling of staff recruitment in recent years.

In an open letter to Shirley-Anne Somerville, they warned "cohorts" of qualified individuals had found themselves unable to secure permanent posts after probation.

And they accused former schools leader John Swinney of failing to provide them with a follow-up response following their meeting with him to highlight the issue.

Calling for urgent action to address the "yearly struggle" of thousands of experienced temporary staff, their letter states: "We acknowledge that the Scottish government has put funding in place to provide additional teachers during our Covid crisis - 1400 posts through Covid funding and support through the Pupil Equity Fund.

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"However, these posts were only so readily filled due to there being unacceptably large numbers of qualified teachers unemployed at the time and desperate for work.

"It should also be noted that these posts have been created on a temporary basis.

"Some are being terminated in June this year, while others will only be extended for one more academic year. Many teachers have taken up the limited temporary posts that were available to us last August.

"Whether they be Covid Recovery posts, management time, covering a probationers day out or CCR cover, many teachers have found themselves working in multiple schools and covering a number of classes (in some cases working in 12 different classes in the space of a week, heightening the risk of infection).

"Unfortunately, the majority of temporary posts will cease by June, meaning no salary over summer despite working a full academic year and a break in service that prevents any eligibility for permanency."

HeraldScotland: Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has been urged to take action.Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has been urged to take action.

The letter, written on behalf of over 2,000 fully qualified Scottish teachers, warns that the situation has been made even more difficult by local authority budget cuts.

"In one council this year, announcements were made that 82 nursery teaching posts and 40 area cover teaching posts are to be cut and the staff redeployed, immediately filling all available posts," it adds.

"In another council, only supply work was advertised and interviews for this have just been cancelled. Over 1200 teachers submitted their application for this post and hundreds have been left disappointed that their application will simply be kept 'on file'.

"When approached, councils have advised that they already have a surplus of permanent staff that is greater than minimum requirement."

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The teachers said individuals without the "luxury" of a year-long contract were having to rely on supply work and what amounted to "zero-hours" arrangements.

"There are thousands of teachers who cannot secure mortgages or car loans, plan maternity leave or make long term commitments due the uncertainty of our employment," their letter states.

"Those of us unlucky enough to be on temporary part time contracts... have had to seek additional employment elsewhere just to pay our bills and put food on the table.

"Sadly, many of our colleagues have even had to leave the profession due to the instability of employment.

"Understandably, many of our colleagues have reported a decline in their mental health and increased stress and anxiety levels due to the casualisation of the workforce."

HeraldScotland: Former education secretary John Swinney has been accused of failing to provide a follow-up response. Former education secretary John Swinney has been accused of failing to provide a follow-up response.

Describing current conditions as a "travesty", their letter urges Ms Somerville to take action, adding that it is "in all of our interests to find a solution to these practices and ensure that all teaching staff are being utilised fairly to support our learners, not just as we recover from COVID, but also in moving forward and looking to the future".

The teachers, who are either temporary or working in the supply sector, have received backing from Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

He said: "The government needs to reverse the massive growth in temporary, short-term teaching contracts and offer permanent jobs instead.

"Anything less risks driving thousands of talented teachers out of the profession for good."

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Teachers are working incredibly hard to support pupils through these extraordinary times. We value, and thank, all teachers for their professional contribution.

“Whilst local authorities are responsible for the recruitment and deployment of their staff, the Scottish Government believes that we will need all possible teaching resources to compensate for any loss of learning suffered since the start of the pandemic. 

"It is for that reason that we have provided over £200 million to local authorities for the recruitment of additional education staff to support education recovery.

“In the first 100 days of this Parliamentary term, as part of our commitment to recruiting 3,500 additional teachers and classroom assistants, funding will be provided to local authorities to increase teacher numbers by 1,000 and classroom assistants by 500."

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A spokeswoman for Cosla, which represents local authorities, said: “The response from Councils and the Local Government workforce across Scotland during this global pandemic has and continues to be immense. 

“Due to the ongoing situation we find ourselves in and our continued main objective of getting the workforce in place to deliver the broad range essential services to our communities, we have had to adapt our practices and procedures to suit.  

“The bottom line however remains that Councils, in line with our agreement with Scottish Government and the monies being provided, are fully committed to the employment of newly qualified, recently qualified and those teachers on supply lists. As well as support assistants and other specialists as required to ensure we draw from the full pool of talent we have available.

“We will do this on the basis of the needs identified of our young people and ensure we have the staff required in place at the right time as we focus on recovery.”