Problem in attracting teachers to the area, say council

Fraserburgh Academy.
Fraserburgh Academy.

Aberdeenshire Council has taken on a range of innovative measures to tackle staffing shortages, they have announced.

Members of the policy and resources committee were this month told that the council was forecast to come in £23 million within budget, and that recruiting issues were to account for a “significant” element of this for the financial year (2012/13).

During the meeting, councillors were informed that the council was taking on a range of measures to recruit new staff with a target on teachers and home carers.

Already, Aberdeeenshire Council has created 13 modern apprenticeship posts of their target 50 for the year to combat the staffing problem.

But while new figures show that there are 40 more teachers employed across Aberdeenshire than last year, there remains the issue of attracting teaching staff to the area. The problem is particularly problematic in North-east areas like Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

Combating this, the education, learning and leisure service is examining ways to attract more teaching staff into the area, which includes offering permanent posts where available.

The service will also look to provide support for people looking for housing, with Aberdeenshire unemployement rates (just 1.5%) pressing the need to look further afield for staffing numbers.

Former Fraserburgh Academy teacher, and current Fraserburgh and district councillor, Charles Buchan told the Fraserburgh Herald of the teaching problems in the town, saying that, at the meeting, it was revealed that of the underspend for teachers’ salaries was forecast at over £2 million for the 2012/13 financial year due to a combination of unfilled posts and reductions in the average wage.

He said: “Both of these factors are detrimental to our childrens’ schooling. Not having a proper teacher means poorer teaching and learning for all pupils in the school. Vacancies put huge pressure on the staff remaining, as they have to supervise, do marking and produce learning programmes for pupils not only in their own classes, but also for the classes without a proper teacher, without any extra allocated time.

“The increasing use of probationer teachers, ie teachers in their first year of work who are in the Government support programme, while useful in ensuring pupils have a teacher, means that even more pressure is laid on senior staff, as they have to spend more time supporting inexperienced staff.”

Councillor Buchan added that, at the January meeting of the Fraserburgh Community Council, the issue of under-staffing at Fraserburgh Academy was brought up, with some Fraserburgh Academy parents alleging that a significant amount of time was spent without a ‘proper’ teacher, doing exercise work supplied by other teachers, and watching DVDs.

On the shortages of staff, the councillor said: “How can our pupils do well in the imminent prelims, when often they have no subject teacher to help them prepare? I have been pressing, along with Councillor Brian Topping, that Maria Walker, the director of education, takes special initiatives, to solve the staffing problem.

“I have also spoken out in the Education Committee. We urged that decent relocation packages be offered, that help with housing is provided, and that adverts are placed in the educational press to attract staff from out of our area to our schools in need immediately, as well as putting in place a long term staffing plan. The quality of the educational provision given to our young people is one of the most important services the Council supplies to us, and our local schools should be staffed to the same high standard as the other schools in Aberdeenshire.”