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Training seen as key to keeping teachers

Experiment suggests investing in new staff development can be much more cost-effective than advertising for replacements. Karen Thornton reports.

NEW teachers are more likely to stay in the profession if they are given extra training opportunities early in their careers.

Drop-out rates fell from a quarter of newly qualified teachers to only 5 per cent of second-year teachers in Lewisham, south London, one of 12 education authorities involved in a government pilot scheme.

And at pound;2,100 per year per teacher, the training costs are half the estimated pound;4,000 schools spend recruiting a replacement.

Ministers are treating interim findings about the pound;25 million early professional development (EPD) scheme with caution and have refused to release them. The TES has a summary of first-year findings.

Retention of new staff is at the heart of government attempts to tackle recruitment problems.

Official figures show that 23 per cent (5,060 in 2001) of NQTs never make it to the classroom; other research suggests that 18 per cent of those who take teaching jobs quit within three years.

The pilot scheme shows that the kind of training is important. Classroom observations and being mentored by an experienced colleague were rated highly by second-year teachers. Teachers were also more positive if they had chosen their mentor and their own training programme.

"The more involvement teachers had in selecting their EPD programme, the more likely they were to feel their professional development needs had been met, and record higher ratings for the effects of EPD on their teaching practice and professional attitudes," says the National Foundation for Educational Research, which assessed the national programme.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This clearly demonstrates that investment in professional development pays dividends."

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