Student teachers are finding nursery school placements ever harder to find, reports Elizabeth Buie
Student placements in nursery schools are coming under severe pressure, in some cases being slashed by half.
Teacher education institutions say they must ration the time offered to student teachers at pre-five establishments in their one-year primary postgraduate course - despite such placements being required by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
The TEIs blame the current shortage of pre-five capacity on a leap in the numbers of students on the postgraduate primary course. They also point to problems caused by the changing face of the pre-five sector where, increasingly, establishments do not have a nursery teacher on the staff.
The concerns have arisen just as the Educational Institute of Scotland is piling pressure on Glasgow City Council not to go ahead with a proposal to remove 37 qualified nursery teachers from nursery schools. They would be replaced by child development officers, previously entitled nursery nurses (see right).
Willie Hart, Glasgow EIS secretary, said: "We have a situation in Glasgow where one nursery school has four students in at one time on placement. The nursery placement element is an appropriate requirement for the course, but it can only be done through this kind of ludicrous situation of four students in one place."
Iain Smith, dean of education at Strathclyde University, described the squeeze on nursery placements as "a national phenomenon".
"All the TEIs are experiencing a similar thing. Essentially, the problem is because there has been so much of a transformation in the pre-five sector that the proportion of places without a nursery teacher in them has risen suddenly to such an extent that what used to be standard is no longer standard."
Mr Smith said it was a GTC Scotland requirement that primary students be given a nursery experience in an education authority nursery establishment, either with a GTC-registered teacher or supervised by one.
This year, with more than 420 students on the primary PGDE course, the education faculty at Jordanhill had been able to find conventional placements for approximately a third of students.
Instead of receiving a 12-day placement in a nursery school, primary PGDE students had had to share it - just six days each.
Anne Hughes, vice-dean (academic) at Strathclyde, said that, while the faculty would have preferred the students to go full-time on placement, they were providing extra facilities on-campus.
David Thomson, director of undergraduate studies at the Moray House School of Education in Edinburgh, said his institution had also faced difficulties when organising nursery placements at the start of the course. Although it had not had to halve the length of nursery placement for all students, around 35 of the 300 on the course had had to share a placement.
Within the next few months, Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, is expected to announce his response to the review of the early years workforce, which was commissioned in June 2004.
His findings will be crucial to the future development of early years provision -and whether qualified teachers are expected to continue working in the pre-five sector or whether their places will be given to staff with varying levels of early childhood qualifications.