Innovative teacher recruitment plan by Aberdeenshire Council

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland correspondent

image captionIt is hoped the plan will help to deal with a shortage of teaching staff in Aberdeenshire

A Scottish council has sent staff to Canada and Ireland to try to recruit new teachers.

Aberdeenshire Council is trying to find ways to deal with a shortage of teaching staff.

As a result, more than 30 new teachers have been interviewed in their own countries for posts in schools around the county.

Successful applicants will be expected to start work early in the new school term.

The council said there was a high level of surplus probationer and first year teachers in the two countries.

An interview panel of three travelled first to Dublin and then to Toronto.

The council said it was adopting an "innovative approach to attract teachers to the area on a temporary basis".

Successful applicants will receive a full induction and conversion to Scottish education standards, a temporary work visa, accommodation and travel costs.

This is expected to cost about £4-5,000 for every teacher recruited.

Short-term solution

The move to find new teachers in Canada and Ireland is seen as a short-term solution to Aberdeenshire's recruitment difficulties.

Councillor Isobel Davidson, who chairs the council's Education Learning and Leisure Committee, said: "We need to look at innovative ways to fill teaching vacancies in Aberdeenshire.

"At the moment, we have around 40 teaching vacancies and despite our very best efforts, we are continuing to struggle to fill these posts.

"We are confident that this innovative approach will stimulate significant interest and help relieve the current pressures on our teaching staff."

Ireland and Canada both have high levels of surplus probationer and first year teachers.

The Aberdeenshire campaign is targeting these areas as a way of attracting teachers who need an opportunity to secure their first teaching post.

Recent studies undertaken in Ontario, Canada reveal the extent of the teacher surplus in the country, with almost 1 in 3 newly qualified teachers failing to secure employment.

Challenging position

In Ireland the position is just as challenging, with around 600 graduate teachers each year failing to secure a teaching position.

Aberdeenshire Council's Head of Education, Policy and Resources, Wilfred Weir added : "This presents us with an opportunity to attract quality probationer teachers to a teaching role in one of our schools, helping us to fill much-needed vacancies and ensure that our schools have the appropriate levels of teachers to continue to meet our high standards."

He added: "This overseas campaign will supplement our on-going and significant efforts to attract candidates to the area using more traditional methods of recruitment."

After the first year, the overseas teachers will have the opportunity to seek full time employment in Aberdeenshire if they wish, subject to visa requirements.

'No surprise'

The acting general secretary of the teachers' union the SSTA Alan McKenzie said he was not surprised to hear of Aberdeenshire's efforts.

He said: "It reflects a combination of the difficulties some rural authorities have with recruitment outside the central belt and the appalling lack of teaching posts in the Republic and Canada."

He added: "Once again it is imperative that the teacher supply issue is examined honestly and without attempting to hide an impending crisis".

A spokesman for the largest teaching union in Scotland the EIS said: "It is essential that the balance is correct, and that all Scottish trained teachers have the opportunity to find work in Scotland if they so wish.

"It is also essential that all individuals trained outwith Scotland meet the very high standards expected of Scotland's teachers, including appropriate registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland."

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