It is hoped that a new partnership deal between Moray Council and Springfield Properties will go some way to solving the teacher recruitment crisis in the region.
The partnership deal announced this week will see the house builders granting the use of 10 two-bedroom flats – five in Elgin, four in Forres and one in Buckie.
Moray Council is facing a teacher shortage that has at times threatened the closure of some schools as the local authority struggle to fill around 70 vacant posts.
Although a relocation package is already offered to suitably qualified teachers for many housing is a stumbling block – but under the new agreement potential recruits will be offered free accommodation for their first six months.
The plan came after Moray’s MSP, Richard Lochhead, held talks with Springfield chairman Sandy Adam – and resulted in the offer being made by the company. Mr Lochhead said: “I am bowled over by the company’s very generous response to a plea for help.
“I am pleased the company is now working with Moray Council to ensure that we attract teaching professionals to the region. Their offer shows real commitment to the local community.”
Confirming the deal Springfield managing director Innes Smith said that when they had heard from Mr Lochhead they realised that they were in a position to help. He said: “We need to attract new people to live in the region and good teachers are an essential part of a successful community.”
Moray’s director of education and social care, Lawrence Finlay, said the issues over recruitment were well known and described the Springfield offer as “fantastic”, adding: “This fantastic offer from Springfield may alleviate some of people’s concerns about accommodation should they wish to move here.
“In terms of some of our hard to fill positions this could be the solution.”
Meanwhile Richard Lochhead has also welcomed a response from the cabinet secretary for education, Angela Constance, to a letter he wrote her on what help could be given to Moray in the teacher recruitment crisis.
In her reply the cabinet secretary indicated that around 400 newly qualified teachers, due to start their probationary year in August 2015, had waived their right to a preferred local authority. She highlighted the importance of the Moray Council identifying all current vacancies, as unfilled vacancies will be given priority over places offered by other local authorities on a less than full time basis.
The number of primary teacher training posts available through Moray College UHI will increase from 40 to 60 in the 2015/16 session.
Mr Robertson said: “I welcome the Education Minister’s positive response which indicates that when it comes to allocating posts for probationary teachers, unfilled vacancies, such as those in Moray, will be given priority so long as they are identified by the Council.
“It’s encouraging to hear that the head of education [at Moray Council] has been in discussions with the Scottish Government on this issue and I look forward to hearing the outcome of the Council’s meeting with Scottish Government officials next week.
“There are clearly a range of issues that require ongoing consideration if the situation in Moray is to be resolved including work on improved career structures, which I know my SNP Councillor colleagues are working hard to bring forward.”