Temporary contracts crisis: Parents win reprieve for teacher

Parent power has helped win a reprieve for a Skye teacher facing the loss of her post as anger grows over temporary contracts and their impact on rural schools.

Families at Carbost Primary were devastated when they learned towards the end of last term that the individual, who had been working with P1-4 children, would be replaced.

News of the planned departure came without warning, leaving the community stunned and anxious. Council bosses said the decision had been reached because the teacher had not accrued “permanency rights”.

Determined to reverse it, parents quickly began writing to local MSPs, including Finance Secretary Kate Forbes. They also launched an online petition that openly criticised local authority chiefs for employing the educator on a short-term contract.

READ MORE: Teacher exodus fears as number quitting register soars

Now families are celebrating following confirmation that the staff member will be able to stay on a fixed-term basis and apply for the post when it is formally advertised later this year.

Dr Louise Lankston, 33, whose daughter Katie, 6, has additional support needs and is going into P2, said the development was a huge relief. But she criticised the suddenness of the initial decision, warning it could have harmed pupil education and the wider Carbost community.

“The teacher in post has been fantastic,” said Dr Lankston, who is a GP at Portree Medical Centre. “She knows the kids. Katie had been doing so much better than we had hoped. She was still only going [to school] twice a week but that was due to the work of the child plan. We had left a child plan, a few weeks before the end of term, [which was] a plan for her class teacher to put in place lots of things for the new year. So at that point, nobody had any grasp that she might be leaving, particularly not at short notice.”

HeraldScotland: There is growing concern about the impact of temporary and short-term contracts on teachers.There is growing concern about the impact of temporary and short-term contracts on teachers.

Dr Lankston added: “I didn’t understand why this job in a small rural school was even being put out on a short-term contract.

“When the previous teacher retired, there was nothing to suggest this should be a temporary post.

“It should have been a permanent post that teachers from across Scotland or wherever could have applied for. That really concerned me.

“And what also concerned me was that we would have another teacher just there for a year before being moved on.

“We were not being told this teacher would have a permanent contract at our school, just that she would have a permanent contract with the council.”

ANALYSIS: Temporary teacher fears: ‘Number quitting must be probed’

Events in Carbost come amid growing concern over the use of temporary contracts and their impact on recruitment, with many teachers facing a prolonged battle to secure stable work.

Dr Lankston stressed that there were particularly serious risks for rural populations.

“What’s really important is that, in our small villages, the schools are a really key point of the community,” she said. “People move into areas knowing that there’s a sustainable school and if the school is seen as unstable, it makes young families wary about moving in, understandably. And what that would mean in Carbost is 50 per cent of the school teaching staff just gone, which is huge.

“You can’t expect the culture of a school to be maintained just by one permanent teacher if you’re constantly getting this revolving door of new teachers coming and going.”

HeraldScotland: Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville is under growing pressure over the use of temporary teacher contracts.Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville is under growing pressure over the use of temporary teacher contracts.

She added: “The majority of the problem that they had here was that they had someone on a repeated shortterm contract who had now accrued permanency rights.

“There’s a real danger that people are sitting in an office, moving teachers around beneath them… and not actually thinking what that looks like for the kids.

“The situation at Carbost, I am convinced, is being played out in other schools across Scotland.”

In an initial reply sent to Dr Lankston, Don Esson, area education and learning manager, said: “Each year at the end of the summer term the Workforce Planning Team have to review staffing across the whole of the Highland Council.

READ MORE: Probationer teachers ‘are cannon fodder to cut costs’

“The decisions made have to take account of a variety of different factors such as the allocation of probationer teachers, teachers who have accrued permanency rights, part-time teachers and teachers on temporary contracts.

“In this specific case the member of staff had not accrued permanency rights and a teacher who had accrued such rights has been allocated to the school.

“Staffing decisions made have to take into account a range of these differing factors. It is not however always possible to allocate teachers to specific schools when requested.”

When asked for an additional response, a spokeswoman for Highland Council said it “does not comment on personnel matters”. 

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992