Moray Council could look to Australia to find teachers for classrooms

Laurence Findlay, Moray Council's education director
Laurence Findlay, Moray Council's education director

Teachers could be recruited from Australia in an attempt to solve Moray’s deepening recruitment crisis.

Education bosses are due to meet a recruitment agency next month to discuss casting the net out Down Under to fill vacancies.

It comes after the authority revealed they actually had eight more teachers than this time last year – but that there are currently 27 off on maternity leave, causing further difficulties.

And sickness absences among teachers have also increased amidst claims that “stress” is one of the contributory factors.

Parents have been written to this month to be warned pupils may have to be sent home during the winter due to a shortage of staff.

Now the authority’s education director, Laurence Findlay, will meet recruitment experts to consider enticing overseas teachers to Moray .

However, council leader George Alexander fears the cost of up to £10,000 per member of staff to get them in the country may prove an expensive “quick fix”.

He said: “We can bring people in if we pay them enough. The concern is that they will treat it as a ‘year out’ or two and then go back.

“I find it difficult to justify spending that amount of money but we’re in a position where we have got to try something.

“The annoying thing is that the kids are losing out while the teachers knock their pan in trying to maintain standards.”

It is understood that Australia currently has about 10,000 surplus teachers.

A package put together by the council would include a relocation payment of £5,400 already on offer, plus transportation costs and a fee to the recruitment agency.

Mr Findlay explained the council would be aiming to recruit primary school staff and teachers for secondary school subjects that have proved difficult to fill, including sciences and maths.

He said: “We’re going to meet with a recruitment company, which is based in Scotland, who tell us there are lots of spare teachers in Australia.

“There will be a cost associated with that and we will have to look at whether that is a viable option for us if they are just going to stay a year or two.”

At a meeting of the council’s children and young people’s committee yesterday, members agreed to explore steps to ease the recruitment woes, including “golden hellos” on top of relocation packages and paying council staff to retrain as teachers.

However, they ruled out a review to consider the viability of the entire school estate and temporarily halting lessons at some schools to transport pupils elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed maternity leave costs have soared from £309,000 to a projected £520,000 for the current financial year.

Mr Findlay explained that while there are eight more teachers on the books compared to last year, 27 are currently off due to pregnancies, with seven due to take leave imminently and a further four confirmed pregnancies among women yet to submit paperwork.

Sickness pay for absences of 10 days or more is also due to increase from £392,000 to £451,000.

Forres councillor Aaron McLean pressed for advertisements for supply staff to be more visible to help plug gaps.

He said: “When I look online I see adverts for Aberdeenshire and Highland supply jobs but not Moray.

“We work in partnership with them but they are also our direct competitors. We’re trying to attract the same people at the end of the day.”

Susan Slater, local branch secretary of union EIS, added: “Anecdotally, I have heard that stress levels are due to the increased absences.”

Council officers stressed the authority was constantly looking for staff to add to its supply lists.