Dedication and talent are not enough ...

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
It is a daunting prospect starting out as a new teacher. My probationary year is behind me and I have just started my first full-time, permanent position as a fully qualified member of staff.

No more teaching three-and-a-half days a week with the rest left for planning and preparation. No more monthly in-service days, when it was nice to escape the school building. And no more hiding behind the tag of probationer teacher.

Even so, I am in a very fortunate position. After experiencing a variety of haphazard recruitment processes, I have managed to secure a proper job. The same cannot be said for many of my friends, leading me to believe that the probationary year has been good for some and not so good for others.

My friend Claire started her probationary year with high hopes of inspiring a P7 class in one of the roughest parts of Glasgow. She stuck it out until the October holiday, but a lack of support from her headteacher, coupled with verbal and physical abuse from her pupils, meant she dropped out of the induction scheme.

Little support was forthcoming from the local authority and now she is much happier doing supply work in another region.

The downside for Claire is that instead of qualifying in one school year, as I did, she now has to complete 270 days of supply teaching before she can qualify; she is in class sometimes all week, as opposed to a probationer's three-and-a-half days; and she has no formal mentoring or support system. It is an unfortunate situation which bears no reflection on her skills as a teacher.

Another friend, Daniel, had a successful year as a PGCE student and was highly thought of by his college tutor. He was placed in an inner-city school for his probationary year and did his best to control an unruly P3 class with a reputation as one of the worst the school had ever had. Again, support from his head was not only lacking, but replaced with antagonism towards his qualification. She refused to recommend him for full registration. His probationary period has been extended, and now he won't qualify until around Christmas.

Again, a lack of support soured what should have been a positive and rewarding year.

For those who did get through their probationary year without incident, it hasn't been simple. Glasgow City Council, the country's biggest employer of teachers, said it wanted to retain as many of its probationers in permanent positions as possible, but many have been left dangling at the end of a string since the first round of appointments. A letter to applicants who performed well at interview said: "We are interested in offering you work.

However, I regret that we are not able to offer you a post at present."

Former probationers have been advised to register with the council for temporary supply work and may or may not be offered permanent positions now that the new session is under way.

There are likely to be difficult times ahead for some of this year's probationers. I know that in one school two probationers are going to share a P1 class of 30 children. This will be confusing not only for the children - when two teachers are in the class at the same time, how do you know who is ultimately in charge? - but also hard work for the teachers.

As a probationer, you must have the opportunity to stand on your own two feet. What if they don't get on? What if their individual styles of teaching don't mesh? And what if the head favours one over the other? It's a situation I'm glad I wasn't in.

Indeed, I'm not in a position to grumble. I made it through my probation and out the other side. I have an exciting job and I'm not waiting for the phone to ring with offers of supply work. It seems wrong that dedication and talent are not enough to guarantee a problem-free probationary year.

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