Placement too far for trainees

Secondary course dropped due to dearth of practice positions, reports Graeme Paton.

One of England's newest teacher-training courses is being scrapped after it was forced to send students on school placements up to 70 miles away. Staff at Derby university say similar problems could be faced elsewhere as parts of the country suffer an over-supply of new teachers.

Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, opened Derby's secondary teacher-training course only two years ago. In the summer the course was criticised in a report by the Office for Standards in Education for failing to monitor trainees' experiences in schools.

University officials claimed the findings were premature and many of the problems were being ironed out. But it admitted that difficulties with placements could not be rectified and the course would be forced to end next summer.

Chris Warren, the university's assistant director of education, said the 115 students this year had been sent to 80 different schools, some as far as Tamworth, in Staffordshire, and Boston, Lincolnshire. It meant a drive of up to two hours for some trainees.

Derby will continue to offer its well-established primary training course, which has more than 200 places. Mr Warren said: "For 115 students, we would hope to have worked with about 30 schools, averaging about four student placements per school.

"In contrast the primary course, even with much smaller schools, achieves at least two student placements per school and this is almost exclusively within a 15-mile radius.

"Over a longer period of time, we would have been able to establish the same partnerships with secondary schools, but not without interim concerns for future Ofsted inspections."

Trainees elsewhere have already experienced difficulties finding jobs, particularly in the primary sector. Wales, Yorkshire, the North-west and North-east have been particularly hard hit.

Professor Alan Smithers, an expert on teacher recruitment at Buckingham university, said the reluctance of schools to accept trainees, may be evidence of over-supply in certain areas.

"There is no doubt we are training too many teachers, particularly primary teachers, and it seems schools are becoming reluctant to take on placements," he said. "It could be that what is happening in Derby may start to happen elsewhere in the country."

A TTA spokeswoman said meetings had been held with Derby to find solutions to problems raised by Ofsted and it was "disappointing" that the course would fold.

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