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All in a day's work for busy Barbara

Probationers soon realise that all the theory in the world is no match for the real thing. John Cairney speaks to one

Barbara Taylor, a second year probationer in North Ayrshire, has been luckier than most of her fellow graduands of the class of '98. She has had only four schools during her first two sessions and has been in her present one, Fencedyke in Irvine, where she takes the Primary 7 class, since last August, Her present contract ends in June this year.

She appreciates the benefits of having long-term supply work, having had only one day without work since she graduated: "Unlike some of my colleagues, who have gone from school to school and have not been in any one school for a decent length of time, I have been able to benefit from being involved in a staff, the planning aspects that that encompasses, and from other important aspects of the job such as being involved in parents' nights."

She acknowledges the support that she has received from both staff in schools and the course hich North Ayrshire offers its probationers: "I have been very fortunate with all my headteachers. They have been supportive and professional in helping me to develop my career and in looking after me."

Her authority provides a voluntary course for probationers and returners, allowing time off for up to 10 days a year, either on a whole-day or half-day basis, for courses taken by staff from Strathclyde University and education department advisers. Among the topics covered during the courses are promoting positive behaviour, assessing, recording and reporting, study skills and working with parents.

Ms Taylor says: "Practically, on a day-to-day basis, you don't always have the time to stop and think about what you're doing and have the chance to discuss with other people the steps you take and the skills you use.

"The course provides you with the opportunity to interact with people at the same stage, to pool ideas and discuss experiences on how to go about dealing with problems."

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