Teachers Scotland: Jenny Gilruth admits to 'problematic' fall in student teachers willing to be sent anywhere in Scotland

SNP minister highlighted a shift in attitudes among probationers since the pandemic

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth has admitted there has been a “problematic” shift in the number of student teachers willing to accept an extra payment to move to other parts of Scotland.

The SNP minister said she had heard during talks with probationary teachers there was more of a “reticence” about relocating in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

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Under the preference waiver payment scheme, student teachers can agree to be placed anywhere in Scotland for their probation year, in exchange for a payment of £8,000 for secondary teachers, or £6,000 for primary teachers.

Education and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA WireEducation and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Education and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The initiative helps plug teacher shortages in parts of Scotland, with priority given to rural areas. When she was a probationary teacher, Ms Gilruth “ticked the box” and was given a job in Moray.

However, last month The Scotsman revealed a huge drop in the number of student teachers taking the payment, based on figures provided to Conservative MSP Liam Kerr by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

The GTCS later confirmed 254 student teachers out of 3,461 took the payment at the date of allocation in May 2022 – a rate of 7.3 per cent. This year it fell further, to 207 teachers, having previously been at more than 300 in 2021/22, 2020/21 and 2019/20.

At education questions in Holyrood on Thursday, Ms Gilruth said: “We know there are certain parts of Scotland where there are challenges in relation to teacher recruitment, and I think the preference waiver scheme helps with that.

"However, there seems to have been a shift in relation to the willingness from our student teachers to tick the box to go anywhere, and that is problematic, because the scheme is not as popular as it once was.

"I held a roundtable with a number of probationers on this very issue a few weeks ago now, and I heard from them a reticence to move around the country, in a way perhaps that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic. So there are challenges, not just in the education system, in relation to this issue. It happens in the NHS, it happens in justice, I know, so this is not unique to education.”



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