Threat to pull out of probationer places

DUMFRIES and Galloway has become the first authority to threaten to pull out of the probationer induction scheme unless improvements are made.

The council's education committee agreed to this recommendation by officials on Tuesday, backing a hard-hitting report which effectively acknowledged the authority has lost control of its ability to appoint new teachers.

Fraser Sanderson, its director of education, told The TES Scotland:

"Feelings are running very high here."

The council has already complained to the Scottish Executive citing its "dissatisfaction, disappointment and anger" after the matching exercise which allocates probationers to education authorities went disastrously wrong.

A particularly serious problem is faced in its secondary schools. The General Teaching Council for Scotland, which matches probationers to posts, allocated just 13 newly qualified teachers. This was after Dumfries and Galloway, in common with other councils, had responded to increasingly urgent pleas from the Executive by increasing the number it was prepared to offer from 25 to 40 - all required to fill genuine vacancies.

Mr Sanderson says officials feel particularly sore that, having made strenuous efforts to create extra probationer places, sometimes by buying out existing staff, they were left to fill 27 vacancies just two weeks before the end of last session. The cost is put at pound;100,000, including advertising costs and early retirement terms.

The report states that attempts to fill these vacancies may be stymied because almost all probationers have been allocated. "There is therefore a very real possibility that some of our schools will start the session without adequate staffing."

Mr Sanderson warns that the authority has now been robbed of its ability to approach student teachers early in their final year to "sell" them the attractions of living and working in the area. He believes central belt authorities enjoy an unfair advantage and many students were allocated to authorities which did not have genuine vacancies.

The new system involves the GTC allocating students to authorities in line with their first five choices. But students can appeal and Dumfries and Galloway lost one secondary and three primary probationers as a result - despite being one of their five choices.

The council says this system must give way to one in which probationers are sent where vacancies exist, as happens with trainee doctors. It also wants students to be allocated to posts much earlier at the start of their final year. If these conditions are not met, the education committee has reserved the right to withdraw from the scheme.

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