Experienced maths teacher in England '˜told to retrain' for Scots job

A secondary maths teacher who has worked in schools south of the border for decades has told how she has been stopped from taking a job in the shortage subject in Scotland due to regulations put in place by the national teaching body.
Teachers generally, and maths teachers in particular, are in short supply in Scotland. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoTeachers generally, and maths teachers in particular, are in short supply in Scotland. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Teachers generally, and maths teachers in particular, are in short supply in Scotland. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jackie Thompson, who has a first degree in primary school teaching, but has worked for most of her career as a secondary maths teacher in England, was offered a job as a maths improvement officer to overhaul failing numeracy at an Edinburgh high school by the head teacher last year, but the appointment was blocked by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

Thompson, who moved north with her Scottish husband, contacted her MSP and tried to “reason” with the GTCS but was told that the body does not take account of any experience or successful track record.

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She has now accepted a job to work as a primary school teacher in Scotland, but feels frustrated that she is not able to fill vacancies for maths teachers at high school level. Some Scottish high schools have recently been forced to resort to asking parents to cover maths classes due to a shortage of teachers in the subject.

Thompson said: “I spent 14 years as a high school maths teacher and as a head of faculty and other promoted posts. I was experienced and in a well-paid job and the GTCS told me that to be allowed to teach maths in Scotland, I would have to go back to college and retrain. I had been training teachers myself, it just seemed ridiculous.

“When I was offered the job in the high school, the headmaster wrote to them and tried to get them to let him hire me, but they said no, because I could only be registered with them as a primary teacher. I had all kinds of ideas about how I could turn around numeracy at the school and we were really excited about how I could implement them, but then they refused to let me do the job.”

Although she took a primary teaching degree in England, Thompson specialised in maths during her course and after beginning work, quickly became a trainer for a flagship government numeracy programme being rolled out in England. After taking a job in a high school to help expand the same programme at secondary level, she began to teach secondary maths and did so for 14 years.

She said: “The GTC is just so inflexible. They will not take into account any track record or employment history.”

Thompson’s story comes just weeks after a Welsh primary school headteacher with 30 years experience told Scotland on Sunday how he had been blocked from working in Scottish primary schools by the GTC due to his original qualification.

The GTCS refused to comment on the case, but has said that it has “introduced new pathways into teaching” over the past year.

Last month, education secretary John Swinney told Holyrood’s education committee that more teachers had left the profession over the previous year than the Scottish Government predicted. The government has failed to recruit its target of 4,058 new teachers this year, with just 3,861 currently enrolled.

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Meanwhile, Moray Council has warned parents that their primary children may have to attend school part-time due to a lack of staff, while Strathconon Primary School in the Highlands closed after the local authority failed to recruit two new teachers.