Too popular by far

(Photograph) - Teacher training by distance learning has become a victim of its own success, with some applicants no longer guaranteed a probation year in their first choice of local authority.

Increasing numbers mean that applicants hoping to join the 2007 intake of PGDE students at Aberdeen and Strathclyde universities may be told that they will have to move to another authority when they start their induction year. The number of distance learning students has risen sharply. At Strathclyde University, 18 students joined the course over its first three years. There are 30 this year.

At a meeting of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, fears emerged that some of this year's Strathclyde students would struggle to find suitable places after the summer.

Highland Council has links with the courses at both universities. Moira McCarrell, a quality development officer for the authority, explained that some applicants starting this autumn would be told at interview, if not earlier, that they would not be guaranteed probation years in their first-choice authority; previously, this guarantee has been made. Even those guaranteed a place may have to prepare themselves for travelling further than they had hoped.

Ian Minty, subject network leader for the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute, said he explained the situation this week to the 14 "deflated" Western Isles students on the Strathclyde course.

Aspirations to teach in Gaelic, as well as family duties, bind many students to certain parts of the country.

Bruce Robertson, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said the rising popularity was a very welcome development, but added: "I think there is a responsibility on authorities to work with universities to ensure these students get places."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman saidJthat, where a partnership existed between an authority and a university offering student teachers distance learning, it was still the intention that the student be guaranteed a probation year in his or her authority.

Photograph of Stornoway:Alamy

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