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Island council issues rallying cry for more teachers needed to fill unexpected vacancies

Shetland Island Council has issued a plea for help
Shetland Island Council has issued a plea for help

Shetland Islands Council is calling for out-of-work teachers to help fill short-notice posts across the islands.

Staff absences and unfilled vacancies are contributing to a greater need for temporary, short-notice substitutes at primary and secondary levels.

Despite recent successes in filling long-vacant head teaching posts, the council has struggled to recruit teachers.

According to statistics from December, Shetland employs 119 supply teachers in their relief bank. These supply staff help support the islands’ 402 primary, secondary and nursery teachers.

Who can help?

Robin Calder, executive manager for quality improvement in the council’s children’s services department said that applicants must already be registered with the General Teaching Council (GTCS), or willing to re-register.

Fair Isle landscape
Fair Isle recently filled a vacant post for a head teacher at the local primary school–the UK’s most remote. Supplied by Shetland Islands Council

She added that because of the flexible nature of the work, the council is open to a variety of applicants.

“We are appealing to anyone suitably qualified, whether they have many years of teaching experience or may be a recently qualified teacher, or a flexible route probationer.

“We can also advise on the process of re-registering with the GTCS.”

She said that joining the relief bank will help the council fill sudden absences.

What is the situation?

Remote and rural schools in the Highlands and Islands have long struggled to recruit teachers.

Shetland Islands Council recently found a new head teacher for Ollaberry Primary School. Last October, Jean Harlow signed on to fill the role that was vacant for almost two years. The council also reported success at the end of 2021, filling the vacant head teacher position at the UK’s most remote primary school on Fair Isle.

Ollaberry Primary School outdoor learning setting.
Ollaberry Primary School recently ended it’s two-year search for a new head teacher. Supplied by Shetland Islands Council.

Despite recent rises in Covid-19 related staff absences across the north and north-east, Shetland has largely avoided having to close schools due to staff shortages.

But drawing new teachers to the islands is still difficult. And a council spokesperson has said that it can be hard to fill vacancies at remote schools even using the existing relief bank.

“When applying to become a supply teacher the candidate has the option to put preferred locations in Shetland.

“Although we have a reasonable list of relief staff, it can sometimes be quite problematic to cover absences in the more remote locations in Shetland.”

According to statistics obtained via a Freedom of Information request, Shetland Islands Council employs 402 teachers. These permanent staff members are supported by 119 supply teachers. These staff members help fill vacancies at nursery, primary and secondary levels.

How to register for the relief bank

More information about the positions is available on MyJobScotland. Pay ranges from £18.09 to £26.55 per hour. Any candidates will have to join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme.

The hours of work will be as and when required, at different teaching locations across Shetland.

Read more from the Schools & Family team

‘We want school to be fun again’: A day in a teacher’s life during a pandemic

‘If you can’t get connected, it’s no use’: Island education boss on Covid internet struggles for pupils

‘We just want what’s best for our children’: Why is it so hard to recruit teachers to our islands?

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