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Squeeze on placements continues

Education faculties are still struggling to find school placements this term, despite Scottish Executive funding for local authorities to provide better co-ordination.

The significant expansion in teacher training places - particularly on maths and English secondary postgraduate courses (PGCEs) - left some teacher education institutions facing real difficulties in securing placements for all their students last term, and this term is still posing problems in some key areas.

This week, Strathclyde University's education faculty at Jordanhill was still looking for 50 placements out of 125 on the course for PGCE English and 45 out of 125 for PGCE maths students.

Anne Welsh, senior lecturer in the secondary department, said the placements were due to begin on February 7 and the university was chasing up as a matter of urgency all contacts and approaching schools which had not offered English and maths placements.

"Some authorities have now appointed co-ordinators for school placements and that system is bedding in at the moment," Ms Welsh said. "We would hope that, for the start of the new session, these co-ordinators will have a much clearer idea of what the capacity for placements is within their local authority. The whole negotiation process will then be much simpler and can be done a lot earlier."

An Executive spokesperson said: "To improve the availability of student placements, we are making significant funding available over two years for local authorities to put better arrangements in place. We expect them to identify and co-ordinate placements and to share this information with universities."

The funding is worth nearly pound;1.4 million over two years (pound;550,000 for 2004-05 and pound;825,000 in pound;2005-06).

Meanwhile, the Executive has also increased the level of payments from Pounds 4,000 to pound;6,000 under its preference waiver scheme, which rewards teachers who serve their probationer year in a remote area.

Probationers are asked to indicate five preferred authorities for their induction year. If they indicate that they are prepared to be located in one of the more remote rural areas they are eligible for an extra payment, or "bounty".

This year 27 probationers - 21 secondary and six primary - are being paid Pounds 4,000 extra for working in a more remote school, a payment which will rise by pound;2,000 next session.

A spokesman for the Executive acknowledged that the recent expansion in numbers in training made it more difficult to place them in schools near teacher education institutions. It therefore wished to encourage more probationers to complete their training in other areas.

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