26 May 2023

Warm welcome for Education Service Business Plans, but concerns raised over probationary teacher allocations

Councillors have welcomed the development of a series of Heads of Service Business Plans for Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services (ECS).

Collectively the plans set out a range of high-level strategic operational activity which will be progressed by the various heads of service within ECS.

They will guide the work of the directorate during the year ahead and will capture the key activities services will be leading forward along with how it will measure its success.

The plans also set out ambitious yet realistic targets which teams will be working towards to demonstrate impact and improvements in outcomes for service users, be they children and young people, families, and others across our diverse communities in Aberdeenshire.

Getting it right for our children, young people, families and communities remains the council’s driving focus in everything it does and that includes working hard to ensure the resources it has are distributed equitably seeking to achieve Best Value for Aberdeenshire and the communities the council serves.

Over the past few years, services have all undergone significant change as they reacted and adapted to the rapidly-changing world around us, from the global pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis teams.

Teams across ECS have shown great agility and flexibility as they have pivoted, often at very short notice, to adapt to the world events which have come our way.

Director of Education and Children’s Services Laurence Findlay said the business plans contained a wealth of important service information from all areas of the directorate activity aligned to the local strategic priorities of Aberdeenshire Council as well as regional, national and partnership strategies.

Highlighting the importance around Worforce Planning, Mr Findlay stressed the importance of the council’s workforce describing it as “undoubtedly our greatest asset” but highlighted the ongoing challenges around recruitment, retention and employee development in a number of service-critical areas.

He reassured committee that the directorate remained committed to ensuring that the council continues have an adaptable, agile “future-fit” workforce ready to meet the challenges which will undoubtedly lie ahead across all services.

Members of the ECS committee congratulated officers for preparing the ambitious business plans and looked forward to delivery of them in the year ahead.

However concern and was expressed around the disappointing number of probationary secondary teachers the council has been allocated from August this year.

While Aberdeenshire Council will have 98 primary probationary teachers from a requested 100, only 18 secondary requests from 66 were allocated which was described by as “woeful”.

While the local authority has not been provided with a breakdown of the subjects the secondary probationers will provide, committee was concerned that none were for Maths or Technical subjects, with only three of the 10 English posts requested being successful.

Councillors agreed that not only was the total number of secondary probationary teachers allocated concerning but also the breakdown of subjects being covered.

It was agreed that Cllr Owen will write to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills highlighting the committee’s concern around the lack of secondary probationary teachers for the region.

ECS committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen said afterwards: “I very much welcome the publication of these Heads of Service Business Plans and in particular the commitment to ensuring we continue to have a strong and stable workforce with a focus on both recruiting and retaining high calibre practitioners at all levels. However we cannot escape from the fact that our secondary probationary teacher allocation this year is unacceptable. We are desperate for Maths teachers - a case in point being Banff Academy where we have a real shortage in the subject – and quite simply the number of probationary teachers we have been allocated is woeful.”