Figures show that there are 1,700 fewer teachers in Scotland’s classrooms than when the SNP came to power in 2007, and thousands of probationary teachers have written to Shirley-Anne Somerville highlighting how they have been unable to secure permanent teaching posts.
Those without temporary contracts have told how they have to rely on supply work and as a result are not able to secure mortgages, plan maternity leave or make long-term life commitments.
Now the Scottish Conservatives are demanding Ms Somerville “end the scourge” of temporary contracts and guarantee that future newly qualified teachers don’t end up in a similar situation.
The party is also pushing for the recruitment of a further 3,000 teachers and for a dedicated rural teacher fund to tackle the stubborn shortage of teachers working in more isolated communities.
Oliver Mundell, Scottish Tory education spokesman, said: “Recently qualified teachers are at the end of their tether and it is time the SNP Education Secretary urgently addressed their concerns.
“They have been left in total limbo after completing their probation period over what their future employment prospects will be.
"Thousands of teachers’ careers are in jeopardy as a result of the failure of the SNP to stop the scourge of temporary contracts.”
He said Ms Somerville must “urgently guarantee our newly qualified teachers full-time employment for two years” and added: “We must ensure that this situation does not continue to affect new teachers going forward.
“We cannot allow a situation to continue where teachers are struggling to put food on the table or are unable to access mortgages, while schools in many parts of the country are struggling to recruit teachers.
“A two-year employment guarantee would also address the stubborn teacher shortages in our rural communities by encouraging newly qualified teachers to move to secure, permanent positions in those parts of Scotland.”
The number of probationer teachers in schools has increased this year to 3,617 – more than 500 than the previous year’s figure of 3,076, but despite that rise there are still 1,700 fewer teachers since 2007 when there was a total of 55,100 teachers in Scottish schools. There are now just 53,400.
On Thursday hundreds of qualified teachers in Scotland “mass tweeted” Ms Somerville to complain about recruitment practices which have left many of them unable to secure work.
While the Scottish Government is still offering £20k bursaries to prospective teachers working in STEM industries, qualified teachers say councils rarely advertise permanent positions, preferring to hire a constant stream of newly qualified graduates on a single year contract to save money.
Teachers’ union, the Educational Institute for Scotland, is supporting teachers in challenging recruitment practices and is campaigning to end zero hours contracts and precarious employment practices for teachers.
It wants to see the Scottish Government and Cosla commit to increased permanent posts by introducing smaller class sizes, cutting maximum teaching time, increasing ASN support and fully finding probationer posts.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland is the only country in the UK which provides all of our newly qualified teachers with a guaranteed one year placement on the supported Teacher Induction Scheme.
“We are working closely with COSLA regarding the employment of teachers for the next academic year, and will continue to do everything we can to maximise the number of jobs available for teachers, including permanent posts.
“Since the start of the pandemic we have committed over £200 million of funding to support the recruitment of additional teachers and support staff to aide education recovery
"As part of our commitment to supporting the recruitment of 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 within the first 100 days of this parliamentary term.”