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Cold shoulder for the winter probationers

UP to 100 students at Stirling University who will graduate as secondary teachers in December will be left in a probationary limbo for eight months and could be lost to the profession in Scotland.

Around 10 students at Strathclyde will also be hit. Thirteen students are affected at Glasgow University while elsewhere students who are off sick or fail to complete assignments until later in the year will suffer too.

There are fears that those who lose out may move south to find their first posts in the new year, rather than taking up the supply jobs they have been offered, after being overlooked in the frenetic planning to ensure the guarantee of one-year training posts for all probationers who begin in August.

The Stirling oversight follows the announcement by Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, that all 1,100 primary students will be offered probationer posts and that councils are well on the way to securing places for a similar number of secondary graduates.

Stirling student teachers follow courses of three and a half or four years and graduate in December, normally entering the jobs market in January. This coming year they have been snared by the probationary year which begins in August. They have been told there is no space for them in secondaries until the following session in 2003.

Peter Cope, head of the Institute of Education at Stirling, said: "Clearly for our students, it's going to be very problematic and they are up in arms about it, as are we."

Professor Cope said: "Students have been told they can go on supply but that is exactly the same kind of fragmented experience that the induction year was meant to stop. The six months delay when you are starting can be very damaging. I have a lot of concerns and many will go down south if they cannot get jobs, which would be a real pity."

He said the Scottish Executive had informed students that it would not run a second intake of guaranteed posts as a right, although local authorities may opt to take another batch. "But there will be no guarantees to our students," he said.

Pressure is now building for Stirling to alter the timing of its courses but Professor Cope said that he would be reluctant to change highly regarded courses to resolve "a bureaucratic problem".

A Scottish Executive spokesman confirmed the difficulties but ruled out a differential pay rate if teachers who are affected were forced into temporary supply work.

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