THE old cliche has it that teaching is a great career for people who like being on holiday. And it’s certainly true that those who enter the profession can expect many weeks of annual leave.
But the reality for those working in schools across Scotland is that they are working in ever more difficult circumstances. Budget cuts and staff shortages mean teachers are under intense pressure, often without the support they need. Meanwhile, a lack of teachers in key subject areas leaves pupils short-changed.
The Scotsman today reports that nearly 3,000 teaching posts have had to be re-advertised over the past three years after initial searches failed to find suitable candidates.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she wishes to be judged on her Government’s stewardship of the Scottish education system and, in fairness to her, she has made demonstrable efforts to improve the current situation.
However, the fact remains that in schools across the country, teachers are working longer hours than ever for rewards that can’t begin to compete with the sort of salaries experts in - for example - the sciences could expect to receive in industry. It is also, unfortunately, the case that budget cuts mean many teachers feel compelled to pay for books and equipment that are no longer supplied as a matter of course.
Scotland’s largest teaching union - the Educational Institute of Scotland - say the need to re-advertise positions that might once have attracted a slew of candidate highlights a “crisis” in the system. We find it impossible to disagree.
It was once said that a Scottish education was among the finest in the world but with declining standards in literacy and numeracy among pupils and a shortage of new entrants to teaching, this is quite clearly no longer the case.
Last week, 98 per cent of teachers who took part in a ballot rejected the Scottish Government’s most recent pay deal, which would see a headline three per cent rise, with more for those on lower grades.
If we want young Scots truly to make the most of their talents, they need to be taught in schools that are properly staffed and resourced. Though this truth is simple, the solutions to the current problems are not. Even so, unless the Scottish Government starts making real progress soon, Nicola Sturgeon may regret staking her reputation on improving standards in our schools.