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Heads put placements at risk

Secondary heads in Edinburgh are threatening to boycott the initial training of teachers in what is seen as one of the most potentially damaging effects of cuts imposed on school budgets. Talks are to be held next week with the city's education chiefs to stave off a crisis.

Edinburgh Secondary Heads' Executive has written to Moray House Institute of Education warning that unless schools are funded to take students on teaching practice they may not be able to offer placements from August.

"There is a great danger if schools do not continue to be involved in a major area of professional educational activity," John Dobie, Edinburgh's depute director of education, said. Mr Dobie agreed that the move was "another manifestation of the impact of the cuts nationally".

Colin Finlayson, headteacher of James Gillespie's High in Edinburgh, who chairs the secondary group, refused to be drawn on what he acknowledged was a "sensitive" issue. But it is clear that the staffing reductions with which schools will have to cope next session, and reductions in non-class contact time for teachers in particular, are causing schools to rethink policies.

Experience of the failed mentoring scheme under which experienced staff were to be given time off to supervise students on placement has made schools aware that the Government was prepared to put a cash value on their contribution. A sum of Pounds ,1000 per trainee was earmarked for the 22-week placements (which have now reverted to 18 weeks).

Gordon Kirk, principal of Moray House, says discussions will take place with local authorities on "the arrangements which should be put in place for initial teacher education". Colleges are also strapped for cash, however, and there is little likelihood of a sympathetic ear to claims for a transfer of funds to schools. Professor Kirk said he and his colleagues would be "sympathetic to workload issues".

John Mitchell, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, says he has not detected a groundswell in the rest of the country to withdraw co-operation. But he agreed the issue was "a symptom of the unease over reductions in budgets which may manifest itself in other ways in other places".

Ministers cloaked their climbdown from the mentoring scheme with an inquiry into "better partnership structures between schools and the training institutions." The General Teaching Council aims to have a report ready in time for its December meeting.

But Mary Rose Caden, the GTC convener who heads the broadly based working group on partnership, stresses that the funding links between schools and teacher training were a side issue.

Miss Caden said: "We are looking at the best form of partnership and if that costs money so be it. We are not looking at cheaper alternatives. It will be up to the minister of the day to consider whether the funding implications of our proposals should be met.

"If he does not, that is his responsibility not ours."

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