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An unqualified disaster

All new teachers must be given the chance to complete their induction period, Janet Ryder writes

No person is to be employed on or after September 1, 2003 as a teacher in Wales at a relevant school unless that person has satisfactorily completed an induction period." So said the regulations, which heralded the introduction of an induction period for teachers in Wales.

No one could object to the idea that teachers should undergo an induction period, but as more and more newly-qualified teachers are discovering, finding a teaching post within a set time limit is no easy matter.

Many face the prospect of not being able to register because they have no job which will count towards induction. Even those who find supply work are in despair because unless it is for a fixed period of at least half a term, it will not count towards completing their induction.

Choosing to train as a teacher is no guarantee of a job, but with the introduction of the induction year, which must be started within four terms of qualification, the situation has changed.

Failure to complete the induction period means they cannot register as qualified teachers and will not be able to take up posts at any time in the future.

We would hope that most NQTs will be successful in gaining a teaching post, but for those who are not then an offer should be made of a post for a year to enable induction to be completed.

Teachers who took up this offer would not be able to choose specific locations but would rather have to commit to larger areas.

However, there is an opportunity here to both enable NQTs to complete induction and to help schools to meet the workload agreement. Pools of teachers could be attached to specific schools, thus releasing the classroom teacher and ensuring that a trained professional is always available to teach every class.

No guarantee could be given of a job after the first year, but once the induction year has been completed NQTs would be able to register with the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) and take up a teaching post in the future.

Alongside this, we need to look at the number of teachers we are training.

At last week's Wales Education lecture, given by the GTCW's outgoing chairman, Professor John Andrews, many of those present were concerned by the figures he quoted showing the high number of trained teachers who were not completing induction (TESCymru, October 8).

In 2003, 812 primary teachers were trained but in the same year, only 253 completed induction. In the same year, 758 trained for secondary work but again only 487 completed induction. The difference is not as large as at primary level, but is still significant.

We also know that while Wales trains a high number of primary teachers, we have a great shortage of Welsh-medium and science teachers, particularly in physics.

There are many reasons why people do not complete the induction year. Some choose a different career path or find jobs in other countries. But even so, a high number of trained teachers are failing to find posts.

Given that induction must be commenced within four terms of qualifying, many will not be able to register to teach and will be lost from the profession. That is not acceptable.

We must act now. With the help of the GTCW we should realign training to meet the needs of our schools. We should offer a teaching post for a year to all newly-qualified teachers living in Wales who cannot find one, thus enabling them to complete their induction.

Wales cannot afford to lose its NQTs. Because of demographics, up to 44 per cent of teachers in Wales will be retiring in the next 10 years. Without these NQTs registered, we face a crisis in staffing.

Janet Ryder is the Welsh Assembly member for Plaid Cymru and shadow minister for education and lifelong learning

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