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Highland director proposes two-year deal for probationers

A two-year training programme that links the one-year postgraduate and induction schemes may help solve a crisis in teacher recruitment.

Bruce Robertson, Highland's education director, is pressing for a review of the one-year probationary scheme for new teachers after its failure to attract staff to areas outwith the central belt. Mature entrants to the profession were reluctant to move for only a 10-month contract.

Mr Robertson said: "If you look at the age profile and nature of probationers, they are very different to what they were. The average age is 32 and they have all sorts of commitments and they are not going to relocate for 10 months."

He wants a blurring of the edges around the university-led postgraduate year and the school-based probationary year to provide better continuity for mature entrants. More than half the probationers are over the age of 30.

Mr Robertson would prefer entrants to be offered a two-year contract that would become permanent if they meet the standards for the profession. Staff would be more likely to opt for rural areas if they had that more permanent offer, he believes.

He told last week's education committee that once staff move to the Highlands, they tend to stay because of the quality of life. The problem was attracting them in the first place. Potential recruits often regarded Highland communities as remote and harboured concerns about housing, social opportunities and professional support.

Matthew MacIver, registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which oversees the scheme for the Scottish Executive, said he would be interested to listen to any views on the induction year. "I would have to say it has been a real success story and one of the things that has made it a success has been the partnership with the local authorities," Mr MacIver said.

Mr Robertson told Highland councillors of shortages in Gaelic-medium education, maths, English, home economics, physics, modern languages, craft, design and technology, and physical education. There are fewer applications for all promoted posts in primary and secondary.

Shortages will be exacerbated as around half of Highland's 2,750 full-time teachers retire over the next decade.

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