Frustration of our 'closed shop' schools

30th June 2006 at 01:00
Much has been written about the success of the teacher induction scheme which guarantees a year's employment to students who have successfully completed their programme of teacher education.

This is reassuring for student teachers undertaking their training.

However, the scheme actually discriminates against another very important group - those returning to teaching after a career break.

There is no comparable scheme in place to ensure that teachers returning to the profession have either a guarantee of a place or time set aside to reacquaint themselves with changes that have taken place in the intervening time.

The main hurdle for those returning to teaching is the induction scheme itself, in that schools are required to offer posts to NQTs (newly qualified teachers), thereby greatly reducing the number of posts that are available to anyone else.

In addition, where posts later become available, schools often seem to offer these to NQTs in post, who they already know. This makes it even more difficult for returners, who now start to see schools as a closed shop.

As a fully qualified teacher of German, who has interrupted her career to bring up a family, I feel strongly about this situation and thoroughly disheartened.

I have worked as a supply teacher for many years now and have accepted every post offered to me. This is not by choice, but as a consequence of the lack of permanent posts available.

The problem is further exacerbated by the policy of many schools, where languages seem to be offered after S2 as an optional subject, even though this is clearly against national guidelines.

I find the uncertainty extremely frustrating and it is very difficult to do any kind of forward planning, knowing that I may (or may not) be contacted to go into a school at short notice.

This has further implications. I cannot sign on for unemployment benefit - so I am one of the unemployed who does not figure in the official statistics.

Nor can I estimate my income with any certainty, which adds to the great confusion surrounding working tax and family credits.

The induction scheme, in other words, has led to a situation of inequality in our educational jobs' market. First, it creates an unlevel playing field, which acts against anyone seeking to return to the profession.

Second, it creates a particularly unfair obstacle for women who, for biological reasons, often have to take a career break and who therefore constitute the majority of those seeking to return to teaching.

The Scottish Executive has a target of having 53,000 trained teachers by 2007, but seems to be concentrating uniquely on attracting students into the pre-service route.

Its target should be reached by employing both teachers currently fully qualified as well as NQTs.

Rafaela Lynch-Loitz

Manse Road

Kirkliston

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