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Peacock pledge on vital first job

The Education Minister has publicly admitted his concern that probationers may find themselves without a post after their guaranteed induction year.

Peter Peacock told final-year students at Moray House in Edinburgh that he would be watching the position "very, very closely."

Mr Peacock said: "We are pouring cash into the induction system and it would be a waste of taxpayers' money if we were doing so only to have probationers ending up without jobs. If the situation is going awry, you can be confident that I will intervene to ensure it doesn't go awry."

The Scottish Executive points out it will cost pound;44 million for the 4,000 probationers who begin in August.

Mr Peacock said the executive had already introduced the fully funded probationer scheme under which it effectively "buys vacancies" in schools where none exist so the commitment to better induction can me met.

He was told by one student that schools simply regarded probationers as "cheap staff for a year".

A survey by the General Teaching Council for Scotland found that 67 per cent of last year's 1,985 induction year teachers were in full-time, permanent posts. This year, 600 more probationers will be looking for work.

A longer-standing and seemingly more intractable problem is also to receive closer ministerial attention, as Mr Peacock acknowledged there were no signs yet of a breakthrough in getting more men into teaching.

He told the students: "I have got to be honest with you and say that we have been concentrating on getting class sizes down and getting the overall number of teachers up to meet our commitment of having 53,000 teachers by 2007."

Mr Peacock said once that had been achieved, there would be a stronger focus on how to persuade men to take up teaching. He acknowledged that relatively poor performance of boys in school over recent years was a factor.

While the primary profession has always been more than 90 per cent female, the proportion of women in secondary staffrooms has been increasing steadily and now stands at 58 per cent, compared with 51 per cent in 1996.

The students were also advised by one of Scotland's most experienced headteachers to keep indiscipline in proportion. Gordon Mackenzie of Balwearie High in Kirkcaldy said "a small but increasing minority of pupils are badly behaved and there had been a small increase in violent incidents", but the "vast majority behave well and are fantastic".

Mr Mackenzie added: "When I came into teaching, people didn't want to talk about behaviour. Why? Because it was seen as a sign of weakness."

He suggested the emphasis had shifted to learning, symbolised by the fact that the executive's 2000 report on Better Behaviour, Better Learning, which he helped produce, would not be called that now: the title would be the other way round.

Mr Mackenzie, a former president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, urged new teachers to beware of judgments about what makes "a good school". This was often a phrase used to refer to a school with well-behaved pupils.

Mr Mackenzie said the key to keeping good discipline was "positive reinforcement, fairness, consistency and a sense of humour".

The watchwords for classroom rules were: "Keep them brief, keep them positive and keep them."

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