Editor's comment

5th June 2009 at 01:00

Lies, damned lies and statistics. The latest survey on the employment prospects of probationers will no doubt continue to give statistics a bad press (p3). It is good news that almost nine in 10 new teachers are finding teaching jobs in Scotland, but it is a sporadic experience for many, and only four out of 10 have landed a permanent post. For the Government, it is a glass half-full; for many unlucky teachers, it is a glass half-empty.

It is certainly true, as Schools Minister Keith Brown says, that more vacancies crop up as the school session progresses, so there will be evidence of an improving picture between the two survey dates in October and the following April. But the dire financial circumstances in which many education authorities find themselves (p1) suggest that even this chink of light may darken. For how much longer can ministers continue to claim that there is enough money in the council kitty to maintain teacher numbers at 2007 levels, when the experience of schools is at such variance with the rhetoric?

When largesse drains away, it can concentrate minds to come up with better ways of doing things. Our special issue this week on continuing professional development shows that, as budgets get squeezed, more of this is being done in-house by using the expertise of school staff themselves.

Probationers have not been similarly blessed. Indeed, evidence emerged from the Glasgow University research on the "professional culture" of probationers (p4) that they were often being mis-used as part of the core staffing of the school. It looks, therefore, as if we will not only have to monitor what happens to probationers when they apply for jobs, but how they are faring during their probation. The much-vaunted, "world class" induction scheme must not become another casualty of straitened times.

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