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Editor's comment

There are various views on the merits of running an awards scheme for teachers and schools. Some argue that it goes against today's "inclusive" ethos in education, rather like the notion that children should not get prizes for winning in sport but all should be celebrated for taking part.

There is another argument, however - that passion, commitment and ability should be recognised; and that exceptional people should have their contribution acknowledged. Can we say with confidence that Iain Houston is the best teacher in Scotland? No - but his school colleagues and pupils thought enough of his ability to nominate him for the Scottish Education Awards (p3). Of course, such awards are subjective, but the fact remains that there are a number of people in education who make a real difference and it is right that we should sing their praises.

The flip side to this year's awards is that they have highlighted the current scourge of the profession - the scarcity of jobs. Alice Thompson, a probationer teaching chemistry in Glasgow, was voted by the judges the best probationer in the country, yet does not so far have a job next year.

The number of advertised teaching vacancies has almost halved in the past year, and the situation has been exacerbated by authorities holding on to vacancies for the next crop of probationers at the expense of those who have completed their induction.

Progressive as the induction scheme is, compared with what went before, we now run the real risk of losing young teachers of great potential as probationers and post-probationers fight over an ever-dwindling pot of posts. If the brightest and the best are being squeezed out, what hope is there for the rest?

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