Balance needed between two pathways

7th August 2009 at 01:00

As a long-serving primary head, I was fortunate to have two wonderful probationers last session, potentially a credit to any school, but they now face uncertainty and an uphill struggle to obtain secure employment, as the result of a training system that is unjust and deeply flawed.

From discussions with other colleagues across the country, I am not alone in questioning the numbers of students being trained year-on-year through the PGDE primary programme and the distortion this is having on the profession. Though not without its faults, the four-year B.Ed programme already brings a crop of generally enthusiastic, better-trained teachers, whose first desire has always been to enter primary teaching, such as last session's probationers.

However, the disproportionate number of postgraduates makes it increasingly difficult for anyone to secure a permanent position, particularly in the current climate. Taking on many more B.Ed students would result in a four-year cycle allowing the variation in teacher vacancies to be better controlled, rather than having many more postgraduates swamp the system every year when jobs are at such a premium.

Having sat on various leeting and interview panels, I also noticed the tendency for PGDE entrants to apply for promoted posts with little time served in the classroom. This again shows an arrogance and disregard for the true nature of the job: the genuine desire to develop and inspire pupils. Experience is vital to be able to relate properly to both new and older colleagues.

In its drive to maintain teacher numbers at a set level, the Scottish Government has allowed the primary PGDE programme to spiral out of control and the results are clear to see: young, capable students trained for the dole, scrabbling around for short spells of supply work or applying in vain for posts with literally hundreds of applicants.

The current situation shows that a rethink is long overdue to strike a more appropriate balance between the two pathways into the primary profession with the emphasis always firmly in favour of B.Ed entrants.

Jack Henderson, Dunblane.

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