Overseas block on induction places

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Some overseas students are being refused permission to complete their teacher training in this country - despite ambitious targets to recruit more teachers and the First Minister's "fresh talent" initiative to persuade graduates from other countries to remain in Scotland.

Teacher education institutions now believe it is time to change the rules, which bar students other than those resident in the UK or the EU from being guaranteed a place on the one-year induction programme after they qualify.

The Scottish Executive's advice is that such students can opt for supply teaching in order to finish their training and become fully registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. This was widely regarded as a discredited route before guaranteed training places for probationers were introduced as part of the post-McCrone teachers' agreement.

Some Canadian students, who are the most affected, have protested at what they feel is discrimination and claim they are not given sufficient advance warning of the induction process. Their concerns have been raised in the staffroom forum on the TES Scotland website.

These views have found some sympathy among the universities. Pamela Munn, dean of the education faculty at Edinburgh University, commented: "Given the likely shortage of teachers and the emphasis on the 'fresh talent'

initiative, the Executive might wish to reconsider its position."

Edinburgh University's Moray House education faculty has 40 to 50 Canadian students in training this year, and hopes to recruit around 30 for next session. Professor Munn insists that Edinburgh "goes to considerable lengths" in its recruitment literature to make clear to overseas students that an induction place is not guaranteed".

"But once they accept the offer of a place, they accept the conditions," she said.

Iain Smith, dean of the education faculty at Strathclyde University, agreed that it "might be sensible for the Executive to bring in Canadians and others in light of the 'fresh talent' initiative and its training targets in the home market". Strathclyde has enrolled 55 students from Canada on training courses this year.

The Executive says it is not in the business of stimulating an oversupply of teachers for whom there will be no jobs after they have trained. It turns on and off the tap for intakes to the TEIs through its recommendations to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC).

"To be eligible for a SHEFC funded place, a student would need to be a UK or EU resident," an Executive spokesperson said. They would then automatically be entitled to an induction training place. But other students are not.

"It is open to TEIs to go beyond the SHEFC allocation but students in that position would not be entitled to an induction place because, having calculated the numbers we need through our annual teacher workforce planning exercise, they would be over and above what we need."

The Executive appears to be relaxed because it believes there will be no problem in meeting its target of increasing teacher numbers to 53,000 by 2007. Ministers are pledged to cut class sizes in primary 1 and in English and maths classes in S1 and S2. They also want to see more teachers in the aesthetic subjects and in learning support over the next two years.

But Professor Munn says there is still a need to target shortage subjects, such as maths and technology, in ways that are "imaginative but controllable".

The planned increase in intake over the next two years would make a change in the existing restrictions even more imperative, she said. "We do want to diversify the ranks of those coming into teaching. That means attracting men into primary schools, recruiting candidates from ethnic communities and targeting people who prefer to train through part-time or distance learning provision. So widening the net beyond the UK and EU is essential."

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