Thin end of the wedge for new teachers

11th May 2007 at 01:00
The support arrangements for probationers in some schools needs to be beefed up.

PROBATIONARY TEACHERS feel they are being let down by a lack of mentoring support, according to the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Research carried out by the council into the teacher induction scheme, now in its fifth year, showed a "significant number" of former probationers said they did not have regular, organised or planned meetings in school.

Reasons given included not having a supporter allocated; their supporter leaving the school and not being replaced; the school not allocating time for the probationer to meet with their supporter; and supporters cancelling meetings because of other school commitments.

Others saw a conflict in having their principal teacher as supporter because it left the probationer with no one to turn to if there was any conflict between the two.

James Thewliss, the vice convener of the GTCS, writing in the journal of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, suggested that although support arrangements in schools worked well for most probationers, the role should be beefed up.

"There may be a need in school to ensure that the role of the supporter is appropriately recognised, supported and implemented. There may well be a need in school for a training programme specifically for supporters," he said.

Mr Thewliss, head of Harris Academy in Dun-dee and a member of the HAS executive committee, said this would prevent failed probationers from being able to blame a school's lack of support for not making the grade.

He advised headteachers: "It would be difficult to sustain a recommendation for non-registration if a probabationer was able to claim that the school had failed, either to be proactive in delivering a continuing professional development programme to which he or she had access, or failed to address an area of agreed weakness by providing appropriate CPD opportunities."

The survey found that many probationers felt school-based development focused on the school's needs rather than theirs, while many schools had no continuing professional development programme at all. Another discovery was that in many schools, the standard for full registration was "a mystery" to classroom teachers.

However, Mr Thewliss was keen to stress that the teacher induction scheme had been a great success, and that the issues raised were simply fine tuning.

The TESS reported recently that a team from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was expected to trumpet Scotland's "world-class" and "innovative" induction scheme in its report to the Scottish Executive later this year.

Mr Thewliss said: "Like all new developments, there are associated issues to be addressed. It is important that five years into the scheme, we take the opportunity to review our in-school procedures."

Bill McGregor, general secretary of the HAS, agreed the scheme had proved a success. He added, however: "I think part of the difficulty has been in schools with a large number of probationers. Sup-porters have been spread thinly because the schools simply don't have enough people."

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