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'Survival' packs for new staff

Teachers seeking work in Glasgow are to be screened for their suitability in an overhaul of procedures for probationer and supply staff. Student teachers who take up "the challenge of teaching in Glasgow" will be given "survival" packs by the school that employs them.

The city, battered by a poor educational image and a political leadership in turmoil, believes it has to step up its support for probationer and supply teachers, including those returning to the profession after a career break. All applicants will be interviewed by the education support service.

A report to yesterday's (Thursday's) schools subcommittee said student teachers should be better informed about the city's schools and the procedures for applying for jobs. Officials also want improvements in the scrutiny of new and irregularly employed staff. Councillors approved a monitoring regime for supply teachers who spend a minimum of one week in a school.

Many probationer and supply teachers are employed by several authorities. The result is that tracking the quality of their teaching is difficult, George Gardner, the depute director of education, told councillors. "This, too, has an impact on the ability to offer systematic support and staff development opportunities," a report states.

Glasgow employs 360 probationer teachers each year on permanent or long-term supply contracts of more than 20 days. The blueprint promises more systematic support for new teachers and the staff who have responsibility for them.

The education support service has already begun a programme for probationer, supply and returning teachers entitled Getting Started. Sessions run for two hours after school and provide an introduction to the authority as well as guidance on specific issues such as interview skills, classroom organisation and effective assessment. The underlying theme is raising achievement.

Glasgow's education department will report annually on its support and monitoring programme which may be eligible to chalk up credit ratings through the Scottish Credit, Accumulation and Transfer scheme. Officials are also to hold talks with the General Teaching Council, which is responsible for nationwide monitoring of probationers before they are admitted to full registration.

Meanwhile the Educational Institute of Scotland's Glasgow leadership has given the thumbs down to some of the key recommendations made by the council to promote "high status and high standards" for teachers and teaching.

The union is sharply critical of the proposal to extend the probationary period from two to three years. This would be "a further disincentive to entering the teaching profession", the EIS states. Probationer teachers needed to have long-term stable employment in a single school, with additional time free from classes and centrally funded staff development.

The directorate's plans to extend the school day and year to make more room for staff development in a way which minimises disruption for pupils also earn an EIS rejection. Staff are likely to be less receptive at the end of the working day, it suggests.

It also rejects unpaid sabbatical leave, which officials believe would offer career "refreshment" for a jaded profession. But the authority would retain some control over the way teachers used their time off. The EIS dismissed as "plainly absurd" the idea that teachers should be granted leave and then have the use of that time directed by the education authority.

The union did, however, welcome a commitment to create 212 full-time posts, management training for heads, a pool of permanent supply teachers for nursery, primary and special schools, and more support for the development of curriculum materials.

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