Editor's comment

15th August 2008 at 01:00

It is always difficult to distinguish the wood when you are among the trees. The case of probationers looking for work in their post-induction year is a case in point (p1). Putting aside the issue of job availability, it cannot be repeated too often how appallingly probationers were treated in the past, hawking themselves round schools doing endless supply work and, therefore, taking years in many cases to complete their "year". By any standard, the teacher induction scheme of a guaranteed, structured and mentored start to a career has to be a massive improvement.

The issue is how it is managed. Governments have never quite got it right when it comes to planning the teaching workforce, partly because there can be so much churn in the system. Older hands will recall the outcry in the 1970s and 1980s about teachers "trained for unemployment" who were unable to find jobs because education authorities could not afford them. There is a danger of this happening again, since it usually occurs when there is a discontinuity between government fiat and realities on the ground.

One of those realities is that, through the concordat agreement between national and local government, ministers have given up their financial levers to influence local authority decisions. So, they may set out policies to reduce class sizes and increase the through-put of students in teacher training, but many councils have other priorities. The result is a mis-match, hence the cries of woe from probationers denied jobs.

Previous governments responded to the teacher employment crises by crisis management: turning on and off the taps of the numbers admitted to training. At least the Education Secretary has set up a working group to investigate the fundamentals of workforce planning, including the impact of the guaranteed induction year on jobs for those moving into their post- probationary period. Its conclusions cannot come soon enough.

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