The three big questions on probationers

21st November 2003 at 00:00
A mixed picture has emerged from the first year of the induction scheme for probationers in secondary schools.

Researchers at Moray House School of Education have unearthed three major concerns, which they reported last week. These centre on the "scale and complexity" surrounding the bureaucracy of the scheme, variations in the quality of the beginners' experience and a lack of continuity with their initial training.

There had also been failures of communication, late allocation of probationers to schools, late arrival of documentation in schools and little allowance made for personal circumstances.

But Janet Draper, one of the research team, commented: "The reality of the first year reflects the fact that it was the first year."

Mrs Draper said that the research, based on returns from 25 local authorities and follow-up case studies in 12 secondary schools, had generally pointed to "significantly more positive findings than those from surveys of probationers in the past".

Local authority officers responsible for co-ordinating probation were also positive, with 78 per cent rating it as very effective and 22 per cent as quite effective.

Satisfaction depended on a variety of factors such as whether advice from school staff was given or had to be sought and whether probationers were expected to set their own agendas.

Mrs Draper said support was mainly directed through subject departments but this, too, varied. "Some felt better supported than others," she said.

"Some were also greatly exercised by the extent to which they were treated as a colleague, rather than as someone apart in a training post."

The researchers found too much variation in the quality of the probationer experience and little consensus on what should constitute an appropriate course of continuing professional development for a beginner teacher.

None the less, Mrs Draper said, "there is now a wider range of professional opportunities on offer, including observations of teaching in other schools".

The report warns, however, that the momentum of the induction year may be lost as beginners cannot find permanent jobs and have to rely on supply teaching. This is "deeply regrettable".

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