Training vital for happy recruits

9th June 2006 at 01:00
But Estyn says information missing on drop-outs. Felicity Waters reports

Early professional development is key to retaining newly-qualified teachers, but local education authorities do not have systems in place to find out why some leave teaching in their first three years.

Schools put a high priority on induction and professional development, but most LEAs miss the opportunity to highlight the "distinct pattern" of provision for new teachers in Wales in their first three years of teaching, according to inspection agency Estyn.

Statutory induction was introduced in Wales in 2003 and a two-year programme of early professional development (EPD) was established in 2004.

All new teachers are entitled to pound;1,000 a year for EPD, and the money can be spent on external training courses, supply teacher cover to enable them to observe other lessons, or cover to release their mentor to work with them.

The Estyn survey found that most teachers were motivated and positive about their first three years in teaching and wanted to be in the profession in five years' time. But teachers on temporary or fixed-term contracts were found to be "less enthusiastic" because of pressure to find permanent posts.

Estyn described this uncertainty as "unsatisfactory" and has called on the Assembly government to provide a guaranteed teaching post for those in their induction year.

Jane Davidson, education, lifelong learning and skills minister, has said previously that she will reconsider the practicalities of an induction year post guarantee once the supply of teachers in Wales more closely matches demand.

Places on teacher-training courses have been cut for the past two years because of a glut of recruits, particularly in the primary sector.

"EPD has improved the learning culture in schools," said Susan Lewis, chief inspector of education and training in Wales. "It helps teachers to settle in quickly and effectively. It also helps them to focus on long-term goals at an early stage in their career."

EPD was introduced in part to reduce the high drop-out rates common among teachers in their first five years. But Estyn has criticised many LEAs for failing to track the progress of teachers from induction into their first two years, which means they often have no information about why some teachers leave.

Many headteachers are also unhappy with the way EPD is run. Neil Foden, head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, has several new teachers. He agreed that "good and effective" EPD can go a long way to addressing some of the issues that lead new teachers to drop out of the profession.

But he says funding for professional development is inadequate - provision of courses is poor and the procedures for claiming funding are convoluted.

"The feedback we are getting from teachers is that some of the courses are not teaching trainees anything that they didn't know before," he said.

"They learn more from observing other teachers or by being observed. But when you clock up around pound;170 for one day of supply cover, that is already a fifth of their EPD budget for a year."

Delegates at a recent conference of heads in Rhondda also complained that claiming funding was difficult. One head said he now refused to apply to his LEA for funding because of "all the bureaucracy".

But from September this year the procedure should be simpler, with schools able to apply directly to the General Teaching Council for Wales for funding. LEAs will retain responsibility for organising the content of development and training.

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