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Job prospecting and minor woes

Monthly diary of a new probationer

Only four months to go. That was the parting comment at the latest course I attended, offered as comfort for those who cannot wait for their probationer year to come to a close so that they can finally have their very own class.

I feel as if I have been wishing my whole year away, dividing it into manageable segments - August to October break, then to Christmas, January to mid-term holiday (one day), then to Easter and finally the last stretch, May until June - but for what? I may regret wishing away the comfort and security of this guaranteed one-year placement should I, like possibly hundreds of new (and newish) teachers, find myself without work at the start of the next session.

The issue of jobs is slowly creeping into many of our thoughts and, with the end of this academic year nearing, I am starting to worry about my prospects and whether it will be the supply route for me come August, a permanent post proving too elusive.

From discussions with friends in the profession, the jobs issue is still controversial. There are many teachers still seeking permanent posts, having graduated four, five years ago or even longer.

There are those who would say that we probationers are lucky: we only have one year of probation to complete. I'm sure this must grate on those who completed courses in 2001 and will not be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland until next year. However, with only a limited number of posts available and - if the rumours are true - hundreds of teachers chasing them, most probationers I know are not too optimistic about their job opportunities.

I have learned that probationers can apply for posts provided the start date is August - which is good! - although any acceptance is pending successful recommendation. Our portfolios may come in useful at interviews, where we can showcase our talents with class-based evidence. (Judging by the size of some, though, a small fork-lift truck may be required to carry them around.) Some regions are already running courses on the process of applying for jobs, which is a welcome provision to us all, I'm sure, and one which previous probationers would have appreciated. However, it's the number of jobs available that is worrying.

The only welcome news seems to be that in 2005 something like 40 per cent of the teaching profession will be eligible for retirement, potentially freeing up hundreds of posts. Yet, if school rolls continue to fall as they are now, will the same number of teachers still be required?

If changes raised by the national debate on education come to fruition, class sizes will become smaller, and therefore there will need to be a greater number of teachers. And how are schools to manage the reduction in class contact time without the need for extra staff? So, the future is not too gloomy.

But these things are all in the future. I and my fellow probationers are, naturally, more concerned with the here and now.

I suppose all we can do is ensure we research the job market vigilantly, make each interview an opportunity to improve our knowledge of the profession and swot up on current theory and practice as much as we can.

I am very tired this month and it is disheartening to think that Easter is still a month and a half away. This, of course, falls on deaf ears to all my non-teaching associates. Perhaps it's because it is my first year and it takes a few years to acclimatise. I just keep thinking how displaced the breaks seem, what with the September weekend, October break and Christmas holidays all in the first five months, then comes January to April - a good three months - with only one day's holiday before the Easter break.

I can understand how the pupils must be feeling at this time of year, too.

They are constantly learning, like me, and seem to be as tired as I am.

It is inevitable that the school year will change. I can feel it in my bones. Just as I enter teaching, the summer holidays will be snatched away.

I remember hearing some years ago that there was talk of changing the year to a semester format with more two-week breaks rather than the six-week summer break. I'm not sure how popular that would be. Is anyone brave enough to raise it seriously? What would I know, humble probationer that I am.

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