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Councils in job alert

Local authorities have been warned not to snap up students out of university and bypass the one-year induction scheme, despite their difficulties in recruiting staff.

Matthew MacIver, registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, last week told council members, including education directors and senior local authority spokesmen, that handing out permanent contracts to students would destroy the spirit of what was a highly successful entrance to the teaching profession.

"I understand the temptations that are there for local authorities," he said.

Mr MacIver accepted there were many councils struggling to fill vacancies in specific subjects and regions but maintained that the one-year probationary scheme was their best option. Authorities had to be closely involved if it was to work effectively.

He was responding to Bruce Robertson, Highland's education director, who feared that cuts in class sizes under the Scottish Executive's partnership agreement would accentuate the concerns of the probationary scheme.

"If current procedures continue, it will put some local authorities under greater difficulty when the partnership programme actually materialises," Mr Robertson said.

Professor Douglas Weir of Strathclyde University sympathised. "When a student teacher comes down to the central belt for teacher education, the chances are that that's where they'll stay."

The induction year was "an outstanding success" but it could be better still. "We are failing as a community to ensure that the real needs of real schools - some of which are in more rural and outlying areas - are met because we are delivering much of our teacher education in the wrong places," Professor Weir said.

He hoped the forthcoming review, now with the Scottish Executive, would rectify the shortcomings and look at new ways of training teachers outwith central Scotland.

Mr MacIver revealed that the GTC next year would have to raise the number of placements for probationers from the current 2000 to 3000 to meet the Executive's recruitment targets. That would place the system under more pressure.

He said 92 per cent of primary probationers have been allocated their first or second choice of local authority against 75 per cent of secondary probationers.

The council also heard appeals for an overhaul of student placements from university. Dr Hierek Kwiatkowski, education dean at Glasgow University, described the placements issue as "very acute". Without a commitment from authorities and schools "we're going to end up with unfortunate bad publicity next year," he forecast.

Mr MacIver believed the induction year model should be adapted for initial teacher training with local authorities far more involved.

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