On-the-job training for graduates who want to be teachers is "haphazard" and is being exploited to meet schools' short-term staffing needs, according to a new report.
A study of the Graduate Teacher Programme, by Rob Foster at Edge Hill College of Higher Education in Birmingham, found that, sometimes, graduate trainees were effectively being used as full-time staff.
In these schools, lesson observation and feedback were "haphazard and infrequent". Opportunities to work in different types of classroom were limited and the training plan was often not being delivered.
The report is based on the experiences of about 120 schools involved in the programme in north-west England. Nationally there are 2,250 places on the scheme this year.
While training in some schools was unsatisfactory, others viewed the scheme as of higher quality than the traditional postgraduate certificate route. Around a third of those surveyed considered the on-the-job scheme to be "a good training model" and a similar number thought that trainees were treated as full staff members.
On the downside, a third of those questioned were concerned that schools lacked the expertise to train teachers adequately and around a quarter complained of heavy workloads both for the trainee and other members of staff.
Previous research has raised concerns that schools were restricting recruitment to existing members of staff - such as peripatetic music or drama teachers and classroom assistants - because of the cost of the scheme. However, the Government's decision, made last year, to fund schools for training appears to have had an impact.
The number of Lancashire schools involved in the scheme more than doubled in 2000-1 and more than three-quarters said that the fact that the trainees' salary was now funded externally had been important to their participation.
Although some schools now see the graduate programme as a way of better controlling how their teachers are trained, others are taking part for more prosaic reasons. Though Lancashire is relatively free of teacher shortages, the study found some schools are using the scheme to fill vacant posts - a phenomenon likely to be more widespread in the teacher-starved South-east.
Rob Foster is author of "The graduate teacher route to QTS - motorway, by-way or by-pass?" His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org