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Education / Surveys for those relocating to Shetland could help future recruitment, meeting hears

All-terrain wheelchairs would make it easier for people with disabilities to enjoy some of Shetland's wilder attractions, such as the cliffs at Eshaness. Photo: Shetland News/Neil Riddell.
Photo: Shetland News/Neil Riddell

SURVEYS could be undertaken to assess the reasons behind why people have been attracted to relocate to Shetland to work in education in a bid to support future recruitment.

It comes amid a continued struggle with vacancies and also gaps in teaching due to absence, with Covid isolation requirements a key factor.

As a result, former teachers were recently encouraged put themselves on the local supply list – and a fresh call was made at a meeting of the council’s education and families committee on Monday.

Lerwick member John Fraser said he had heard that there have been some recent success in recruiting to teaching posts.

But he asked if there was any process in place to find out why exactly people have decided to move to Shetland for work, as it could help future recruitment.

Fraser said the council does plenty of work around staff retention – such as through exit surveys – but questioned if more could be done to learn more about the circumstances of those relocating to Shetland.

Children services director Helen Budge said this has often been done on an informal basis, but she was keen to take Fraser’s suggestion forward into a formal survey.

She also told Monday’s meeting that some central staff have been drafted in to cover recent absences, such as in clerical work or PE.

The relaxation earlier this year in Covid isolation requirements has helped, Budge added, although there has been a spike in cases in recent weeks.

The children’s services directorate is expecting to post a significant underspend in 2021/22 of around £1 million, and staff vacancies and recruitment difficulties are key reasons for this.

This is not unique to children’s services, however, with recruitment difficulties experienced elsewhere in the council, such as in planning.

Councillors were also told that new wraparound childcare facilities are in the works in Brae and Sandwick, which could go live in August.

Wraparound care is provided before and after school time.

North councillor Emma Macdonald said childcare was important when it comes to recruitment and retention and she called for more innovation in the area, but acknowledged that wraparound care is not a statutory obligation for the council.

Early years manager Sam Flaws also confirmed that talks are ongoing about improving childcare provision in the Westside, although it has been a “very difficult and challenging picture”.