Funds provided for newly-qualified teachers may leave many heads in the red, reports Elaine Williams
SCHOOLS in many parts of the country face a serious cash shortfall due to the Government's arrangements for the induction of newly-qualified teachers.
From this September all NQTs will have to pass an induction year before they are allowed to teach. In return schools and local authorities must provide and fund an extensive programme of guidance and support including cutting recruits' teaching load to allow more time for training.
Although induction is broadly welcomed and the Government is giving extra cash through the Standards Fund, the money which arrives at schools differs widely with some receiving less than half the amount per recruit than others.
In Bexley, south London, for example, schools are being offered a pound;360 "top up" to pay for supply teachers to cover each recruit's reduced timetable. In Sheffield, schools will receive 10 per cent of an NQT's salary (around pound;1,900), plus a one-off pound;500 payment for support sessions. In Bradford, schools are being offered pound;3,150 for support and courses while at the top end, small schools in Norfolk with under 150 pupils are to receive pound;3,990 (20 per cent of a recruit's salary).
The Teacher Training Agency, while piloting the induction process, assumed that the funding would follow the newly-qualified teacher, but instead it has been distributed to education authorities via the school improvement grant, lumped together with other funding.
The Department for Education and Employment has defended this strategy as allowing LEAs flexibility to meet local needs. However, officials were unable to say how much money is allotted specifically for induction, or how much they expect local authorities to give to schools per NQT.
Indeed, the cash was distributed in April long before authorities had any idea of the number of NQTs they were likely to recruit and two months before the Government spelt out the details of its induction programme.
Simon Prynne, headteacher of Jubilee primary school, in Bexley, has had to take on five recruits for this September for his 350-strong school, as not one experienced teacher applied for the posts last summer. The pound;360 for cover offered by Bexley, he said, will not last him beyond the end of October as supply teachers in London cost at least pound;120 per day. The implications of induction, he said, have not been sufficiently thought through and he has written to the DFEE expressing his concerns.
He said: "They promised a full reply by August 13, but I am still waiting. It is a real blow. I don't think schools have yet realised the full implications of this."
Inner-city authorities with a high turnover of staff tend to take on larger numbers of NQTs. They may be hardest hit as it is likely the funding was calculated on pupil numbers rather than the projected number of new recruits.
Heads are now concerned that teachers who fail their induction may have strong grounds for appeal if it can be proved that their training year was not adequately funded.
The DFEE's vagueness on how much money councils should spend is compounding problems. Officials restated this week that councils were responsible for their own arrangements though they expect around pound;45 million to be spent nationally for the year 1999-2000. They added that the department is currently looking "at how to give some weight" to induction in next year's grant allocations.