Student teachers embroiled in school placements problem

Teacher in front of class Image copyright Thinkstock

More than 100 student teachers have been unable to begin vital classroom placements this week amid concerns of "mismanagement" of the system.

Education secretary John Swinney told Holyrood on Tuesday that 128 trainee teachers were yet to have their placements confirmed.

He said schools were being encouraged to provide more opportunities for prospective teachers.

But the EIS union said the situation was "completely unacceptable".

About 6,500 students were expected to begin placements at primary or secondary schools across Scotland during September.

Universities and local authorities are expected to find and agree placements for the trainee teachers.

However many students - including 100 at the University of Strathclyde alone - have been unable to begin their classroom experience.

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The problems have been condemned by EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan.

He said: "It is completely unacceptable that students do not know where they are going because of this mismanagement, not only because of the stress involved, but also because it prevents sufficient planning by both the student and the school."

The placements are considered important because they are the students' first experience in a school teaching environment.

One trainee teacher told BBC Scotland: "It is disappointing to be let down in this way as the placement allocation system and local authorities are letting down the future generation of teachers - people whom they should be actively encouraging to continue in the profession.

"It is shocking that schools can 'opt out' of taking students (and I suspect that many are because of funding cuts and stress due to being overworked as it is) but without offering these, trainee teachers are never going to be able to progress with the classroom experience that they need to coincide with their studies."

The placement system is hosted by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) but they said it was up to universities to secure placements from local authorities.

'Entirely unacceptable'

Mr Swinney told parliament that the system relied on universities providing good information about students and for local authorities to provide adequate placements in schools.

"I understand entirely the frustration of young people affected in this way and I find it wholly and entirely unacceptable that this situation has arisen," he said.

A total of 6,520 students were in the market for a teaching placement, Mr Swinney said.

"The overwhelming majority of placements have been secured but that's not good enough for the 128 young people affected by this problem," he added.

The problem has emerged despite concerns about a shortage of teachers in some parts of the country.

Mr Swinney said: "We are experiencing just now... a shortage of teachers which therefore would suggest to me the importance that has to be attached in every single local authority in the country of ensuring that there are an adequate number of school placements available for trainee teachers.

"Local authorities run the schools of Scotland and they have to take responsibility for ensuring that there are adequate places available."

A spokesman for the University of Strathclyde said: "We have been working closely with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and local authorities, to address the national shortfall in placements available across the country."

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