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Sabbaticals proposed for experienced staff

The Government has announced a raft of pilot schemes to boost professional development, says Warwick Mansell.

EXPERIENCED teachers in schools in deprived areas are to be given the chance to take paid sabbaticals of up to six weeks in an extension of professional development programmes announced by ministers this week.

The Government is also to pilot a scheme giving teachers in their second and third years more learning and development opportunities to build on their induction year.

And, in another pilot, thousands of teachers are to be given bursaries of up to pound;700 to spend on professional development programmes of their choice.

However, in an interview with The TES, Education Secretary David Blunkett acknowledged that the current recruitment shortfall was limiting his capacity to expand professional development.

He said: "Ironically, the more we try to help people with retraining and sabbaticals and time out of the classroom, the more we end up increasing the pressure on vacancies and recruitment."

The measures are part of a pound;92 million package which also sees the extension of programmes giving teaches opportunities to study abroad and, for 1,000 professionals, access to pound;3,000 scholarships to research best practice in this country.

The Government says 70,000 teachers could benefit over three years from the package, announced yesterday at the unveiling of a new strategy for professional development.

The move comes after England's General Teaching Council said, in advice to the Government last December, that all teachers should be entitled to professional development throughout their careers.

David Puttnam, GTC chairman, welcomed the package, but said the GTC wanted to see all experienced teachers - not just those in challenging schools - given sabbaticals.

John Bangs, assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers, welcomed the plan as one of the most positive things the Government had done for the profession.

He added: "I think if the Government had thought to introduce this before it brought in performance-related pay, it might have found it changed the atmosphere in staffrooms."

More information on the schemes from a new website, Estelle Morris, 15

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