BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
Extra money can be found by Highland Council to tackle the crisis of a shortage of supply teachers in the area, it was claimed this week.
While acknowledging the scale of the problem, Councillor Alasdair Christie, chairman of the children’s services committee, was adamant last week that the council were powerless to alter terms and conditions as they were set in 2011 as part of a national agreement.
However, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities — the organisation that devised the 2011 agreement, along with the Scottish Government — denied this.
A spokesman for COSLA said: “It would be fair to say that in some subject cases, for example home economics, we have a problem whereby there are not enough specialist teachers being trained in the subject matter. In other cases, supply teachers may have to travel long distances in remote areas which has a time and financial cost. However, the national terms and conditions allow councils a discretion to make additional payments to supply teachers if deemed necessary locally.”
This view was echoed by a spokesman for education secretary Michael Russell, who said: “The 2011 pay agreement is a national pay agreement. All teachers’ terms and conditions are set nationally by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers. Under the terms of the SNCT handbook for teachers’ pay and conditions, there is a provision which allows local authorities the flexibility to increase the salary of a teacher depending on the particular circumstances of an individual post.”
This week, Mr Christie said the council were discussing the matter with COSLA but he was still under the impression that the national agreement could not be varied locally.
And while the council maintain that the problem is national in scope, COSLA again took a different view.
Their spokesman said: “The bottom line is that there is no national crisis in the availability of supply teachers, it’s a very mixed picture across the country.”
Earlier this month, Mr Christie said the council would start advertising in the main news sections of national newspapers because of the shortage of supply teachers in the area.