'Probationers ill-prepared'

Many probationary primary teachers in Scotland are starting work badly prepared for the job, headteachers have claimed.

The Association for Head Teachers in Scotland (AHTS), which represents primary, special and nursery school heads, has branded the one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) inadequate and called for it to be extended to two years, a call rejected by the Scottish Executive.

The complaint follows concerns raised by the Headteachers' Association of Scotland (HAS). It warned that a growing trend by the teacher training organisations in Scotland to pass students who had not reached the requisite standards meant more were failing at the probationary level.

Yet both organisations voiced support for the probationary system, introduced in Scotland in 2002, where all graduating teachers are guaranteed a job for one year at the end of their university courses.

"This is a vast improvement on what went before, but some aspects are severely hampering the learning and teaching experienced by pupils," said Lindsay Roy, headteacher at Inverkeithing high school in Fife and president of HAS.

"There is still a small number who have been considered unsatisfactory during their school placements, yet it is left to schools to ensure they do not pass their probationary period."

He claimed that this left around 200 pupils receiving unsatisfactory teaching. It also meant high levels of support were necessary from mentors and senior staff.

In primary schools, the problem is exacerbated by the limited training diploma teachers receive. Over the past two years, the number choosing this route has soared by more than 400, creating difficulties for headteachers because probationers are not ready to take classes, says the AHTS.

"We recognise the need to increase the numbers of qualified teachers in Scotland to cope with smaller class sizes and reduced contact hours," said Greg Dempster, its general secretary. "But once that target has been reached the Scottish Executive needs to reconsider the diploma.

"Our members are finding PGDE primary teachers are ill-prepared for the classroom and that they need far more support than those coming through the four-year degree."

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