TEACHERS are being forced to sign onto Universal Credit, get second jobs outside education or leave the occupation despite £75 million of extra funding being given to councils for schools to hire more staff during the pandemic, The National has found.

An investigation by our sister paper has been told “thousands” are struggling to get regular employment following years of training, with several contacting us to say they are now seeking welfare support.

Some teachers believe the situation is due to a long-standing “disconnect” between the number of students graduating from education colleges every year and the number of vacancies in primary and secondary schools.

Others believe local authorities have diverted funds given to them by the Scottish Government to hire more teachers into other services.

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Education Secretary John Swinney announced in July that councils were being given an additional £75m to recruit 1400 more teachers this year, in order to give pupils more support after schools were closed for five months under lockdown.

Yet teachers say the extra funding has made no improvement to their chances of finding permanent posts.

Gerard Wilkie, who specialises in modern languages, said he is currently doing general supply work at a special school after being unable to find a permanent post since qualifying 20 years ago. The 50-year-old said he is now considering retraining to teach computer science in a bid to improve his prospects.

He hit out too at a 2021 Holyrood manifesto pledge by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to train 3000 new teachers, saying the country didn’t need more teachers, but rather jobs for the “thousands” who couldn’t find work.

Wilkie, who lives in West Lothian, wrote to Ross after reading about pledge in The National earlier this month. “I told him there was no point in training 3000 new teachers as there are thousands of teachers who don’t have work,” he said.

“I don’t want to be relying on supply work. It’s a zero hours contract. There’s no security in it,” he added, explaining that since April this year he has applied for 20 permanent teaching jobs, getting two interviews but without success. There is more supply than demand. There are a number of things going on I think. There are the Tory cuts to Scotland’s budget, and education is ... under-funded as a result of that. One of the knock-on effects is there are fewer permanent contracts, and more reliance on short-term contracts and supply teachers.”

He said: “We are at risk of losing a skill set. If people are only getting irregular work or are leaving the profession, that is knowledge that is getting lost.”

Wilkie went on to say that teachers should be training the future generation and “not claiming Universal Credit”, waiting for work to come up or finding jobs in other sectors.

A primary teacher in her 60s, who is on a supply list, said: “Students may well get a job for a year as the Scottish Government pays the councils to employ graduates for a probationary year. After that many can’t get work. It’s no way to run a system.”

Two other teachers told how they was considering returning to previous careers in law and financial servies after their dreams to find work were shattered. Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: “There is a clear need for additional teachers in our schools, to cover for absent colleagues, to support educational recovery for pupils, and to facilitate the smaller class sizes required for physical distancing to be enabled effectively.

“Councils which fail to employ available staff and instead misuse zero-hours supply lists are doing a disservice to both individual teachers, many of them desperate for work, and to pupils being short-changed by teacher shortages. Every available teacher in the country should be enlisted in supporting Covid recovery. If that means additional funding being found by the Scottish Government and Cosla, so be it.”

Professor Lindsay Paterson, of Edinburgh University, said: “If teachers who have just finished their probation are finding it difficult to find jobs, it seems to me that, in the present emergency, this is a wasted opportunity by the Government and local authorities to bring in extra staff to help pupils catch up with what was lost.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the £75m in new funding was enough to recruit around 1400 teachers such as post-probationers and recently qualified teachers, as well as other qualified teachers. While the recruitment and deployment of teaching staff is a matter for councils to determine, we would encourage them to use the full £75m which we have made available to them to recruit additional teachers.”

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A Cosla spokesperson said: “The response from councils and the local government workforce across Scotland during this global pandemic has and continues to be immense.

“Due to the ongoing situation and our continued main objective of getting the workforce in place to deliver the broad range essential services to our communities, we have had to adapt our practices and procedures to suit.

“The bottom line, however, remains that councils, in line with our agreement with Scottish Government, are fully committed to the employment of newly qualified, recently qualified and those teachers on supply lists, as well as support assistants and other specialists as required to ensure we draw from the full pool of talent we have available.

“We will do this on the basis of the identified needs of our young people and ensure we have the staff required in place at the right time.”