PROPOSALS TO allow newly qualified teachers to spend their induction year in a further education college have been welcomed by trainees, who hope the change will widen their choices of first jobs.
The plans also fit with the Government's agenda to widen opportunities for pupils aged 14 to 19. More than 100,000 students in this age group are already in the FE system.
However, unions fear inexperienced teachers may miss out on vital support during what is seen as the toughest year of their career.
At present, teachers can take initial training placements in FE colleges but they must find a school to complete their induction year.
Under the plans, colleges will be able to opt to take on NQTs as long as they can provide the qualified support required. New teachers will not be allowed to teach over 19s for more than 10 per cent of their timetable and they will also have to complete 20 to 25 days working in a school setting.
The plans also would end the five-year limit in which NQTs must complete the equivalent of a three-term induction year. It is intended the changes will come into force in September 2008 at the same time as the first batch of 14-19 diploma courses is launched. The new work-related qualifications will require greater interaction between schools and colleges and teachers from both sectors will be required to move around more.
Ruth Hanson, who heads the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' group for teachers at the start of their careers, welcomed the proposals. She said:
"In certain areas it can be still be very difficult to find a full-time job at a school for a whole year. Some people have to rely on supply work and maternity cover, making it hard for you to fulfil the (induction) requirements. This will provide more choice."
John Bangs, the National Union of Teachers' head of education, said provision for NQTs in colleges would have to be carefully monitored. "On the one hand, it could be a great experience as you will be teaching people who've chosen to be there, who could walk out at any time, depending on the quality of your teaching," he said. "But the support and mentoring must be from a decent and qualified mentor. We don't want teachers to become lonely and anxious about how it will be to move back into schools."
Some FE colleges have already said they will take on the responsibility.
Peter Roberts, the principal of Stockport College in Greater Manchester, said: "We welcome the proposals, as it is important for pupils and teachers to have a range of experiences in different institutions. But we hope it can be arranged so it doesn't become bureaucratically onerous."
The proposals will be under consultation until August 17.