Qualified, capable, but not employable

The profession stands to lose much-needed newly qualified teachers because rigid requirements are preventing them from being inducted.
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You work hard for your degree, you take another year to undertake professional training and you look for your first job. There is a shortage of recruits, so the future looks rosy?

You work hard for your degree, you take another year to undertake professional training and you look for your first job. There is a shortage of recruits, so the future looks rosy?

Well no, not if you are going into teaching and that first job is difficult to find. Then the complexities of the new induction arrangements for new teachers may mean that if you start off as a supply teacher you may find it very difficult to become a fully qualified teacher at all.

The Government's restoration of a period of induction for new teachers last September was widely welcomed by the profession. It provides for mentoring in schools for new recruits working on a reduced timetable. The money provided to cover this probationary period varies from local authority to local authority - between £450 and £1,200 per recruit, according to a recent survey by the National Union of Teachers.

Most schools seem committed to doing a good job. But there is a significant group of newly qualified teachers working on supply who are getting no induction and their future in the profession is causing increasing concern to the supply agencies who employ them.

Select Education is the largest of the agencies supplying temporary staff to schools and currently has 1,350 newly qualified teachers on its books, 850 of them on supply. Only 40 have been able to find schools which offer them induction arrangements. If those numbers are typical of other agencies, Select suggests, there must be thousands of newly qualified teachers around the country who cannot find induction placements and who could be lost to the profession because they can only work as supply teachers for four terms without starting the induction process. For newly qualified teachers who left university last summer, the option to work as supply teachers will be closed to them at Christmas.

Millions of pounds of public investment are at stake, as well as the loss of much-needed freshly trained teachers. The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) and the Teacher Training Agency are aware of the problem and say they are studying its implications. The DfEE is waiting for a clearer picture of the numbers of new teachers completing induction this summer. It then plans to identify the teachers who have been unable to find suitable placements, why they have been unsuccessful and what can be done to help them get inducted.

From the Government's point of view, failing to induct new teachers can only be seen as a waste. It costs between £3,000 and £4,000 a year to train a new teacher, with courses lasting from one to four years. (The recent television advertising campaign to boost recruitment cost £6m alone.)

In theory, the induction arrangements should be flexible enough to cover teachers who take time finding that first permanent job. New teachers have five years to complete the induction process and part-timers can spread what is normally a one-year process for a full-timer over a longer period on a pro-rata basis.

The difficulties arise over the small print: a supply teacher must have a one-term appointment to be eligible for the induction process, which is school-based. And head teachers and local education authorities are reluctant to invest in induction training for staff who are not on the pay-roll. In those circumstances, the four terms that every new teacher can work on supply pass very quickly, as many newcomers to the profession are discovering as they begin a frantic scramble to find jobs for September.

Critics of the new scheme say it is simply not flexible enough to cope with the needs of newly qualified teachers who either cannot find, or do not want to take a permanent job immediately after they leave university. Many of those who turn to supply teaching are tied, for some reason, to their home area. They are either mature entrants to the profession with family commitments and who cannot seek work in the areas where there is the greatest shortage of teachers, such as London and the South East or the other big cities. Or they are younger teachers who choose to return to their parents' home towns when they qualify because of the heavy debts they have to repay after qualification.

Some people are looking for a range of experience, or a flexible life-style, before settling down in a full-time job. Supply teaching offers them valuable experience but not, it seems, the chance to become fully qualified teachers.

Both the teacher unions and the supply agencies are urging the Government to amend the regulations on induction so that the newly qualified, who find themselves working on supply, can use the experience to gain fully qualified status.

Geoff Holman of the National Association of Head Teachers suggests that the funding system be simplified so that the money for induction follows newly qualified teachers as an entitlement rather than coming, as now, from the government to the schools via the LEAs. He thinks that the lack of cash should not be an excuse to not offer a new teacher induction.

Select Education agrees and suggests three other changes which could assist the newly qualified teacher who cannot gain an induction appointment at present. They suggest that the new recruit should be made responsible for collecting a portfolio of evidence for the achievement of the required standard of work; that assessment of new recruits should not be wholly dependent on the schools and LEAs and that other qualified personnel, such as retired heads, could be used as assessors. To make this more equitable, Select suggests that there should be a new qualification for assessors who could then be drawn from a wider field such as retired head teachers, after proving they had the appropriate skills.

"There is no doubt that some sort of action is required," says Bob Wicks, the managing director of Select Education. "As we approach the end of the academic year, thousands of newly qualified teachers will not even have recorded the valuable experience they have gained as supply teachers, let alone had it assessed. If nothing is done soon, we stand to lose at least 2,000 teachers as the possibility of supply teaching runs out."