Probationer recruitment needs a new look

9th May 2008 at 01:00
I wonder whether the time has come to re-consider the way in which probationer teachers are allocated to schools
I wonder whether the time has come to re-consider the way in which probationer teachers are allocated to schools. The accountability of headteachers has never been greater, but this must include the appointment of all staff - including probationers.

In our school, we take around 12 probationers a year of varying quality - most are very good, some require support and others have been outstanding. I accept all the valid arguments to justify why new entrants to the profession have an entitlement to a settled probationary year, but where does this sit against the entitlements of pupils and school communities? What of the probationer who is less than impressive, less than committed, less than effective?

I hear you refer to the Standard for Full Registration. However, in my experience, it is easier for a probationer to demonstrate that he or she just meets the standard than it is for schools to convince the General Teaching Council for Scotland that he or she fails to do so.

Those at either extreme are easy, but those who fail to impress or who show themselves to be less than convincing colleagues leave schools in a vulnerable position. Any probationer who fails to meet the standard can have a lasting negative impact on a child's educational progress. A minority of our pupils have suffered over the last few years because of probationers of unacceptable quality.

No doubt, many will claim that these concerns can be levelled against fully-qualified teachers and, of course, this is true. However, headteachers (mostly) select their permanent staff and are held accountable for these appointments. They have no say whatsoever over which probationers they receive.

It is also frustrating to be in a position where, because of the current probationer scheme, it is impossible to recruit outstanding students (including those in shortage subjects) from universities elsewhere in the UK, unless they can be guaranteed a long-term temporary contract in the same school over 18 months. Some schools are also falling into the pattern of appointing probationers who have been with them to permanent posts, rather than recruiting the best.

The majority of probationer teachers are a credit to themselves and the system. However, we must balance their entitlements with those of the pupils who deserve to be led on their journey to excellence without undue risk and in a context of accountability.

Neal McGowan, rector, Larbert High.

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