By Lauren Boath, Lecturer in Education at the University of Dundee

FOR Scotland to prosper in the 21st century we need scientists, engineers and technologists to help tackle the great global challenges of the age – climate change, AI and antibiotic resistance, to name just a few. If that is to happen we need teachers to instil in our children a passion that carries through into their working lives or further studies. And therein lies a problem. Scotland’s pupils returned to school last month with 700 teaching vacancies across the nation. The situation is particularly acute across the Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. We need to address this as a matter of urgency.

From January 2018, we will welcome around 35 student-inductees on to our new 52-week Supported Induction Route (SIR) for Stem subjects. This three-year pilot integrates our high-quality PGDE teaching qualification and the probationary period for teachers. Student-inductees receive a £22,400 salary from the outset and will be fully registered teachers several months earlier than at present.

Supported Induction recognises teaching’s critical importance to our country’s future. Our student-inductees will have more university-based learning time than on our existing PGDE programme. After an initial block of face-to-face teaching, each student-inductee will be paired with a mentor in the identified placement school. They will observe their mentor in the classroom and work closely with them before being given their first opportunity to take a class under supervision. Responsibility for planning and teaching is introduced at the same carefully managed pace as the current PGDE programme. In all, student-inductees undertake 37 weeks of placements. In the latter half, contact time is limited to 18 hours a week, in line with current probationers.

Student-inductees will attend university once a week during placement periods and on a full-time basis during summer and other times. The programme is simultaneously intense and rewarding, as teaching always is.

Everyone involved in devising and implementing SIR is a teacher by background, passionate about the profession and transforming lives. Underpinning our philosophy is a desire to remove barriers that might deter potentially excellent teachers from the profession. Here I speak from experience, as my husband and I had to sell our house to allow me to return to university.

When I studied the PGDE, the three six-week placements could take place in three schools across a wide geographical area. For the probationary year I had to be willing to work in any one of five local authorities. My husband needed the one car we owned for the job that would sustain us. Relying on public transport was challenging with a toddler at home. We were fortunate that we could up sticks and could rely on a support network, but a year without pay, childcare and other logistical challenges proves prohibitive for many.

It is essential a diverse range of routes into the profession exist, particularly for anyone considering a career change several years after graduating. This group possesses life skills and experiences that enhance not just their pupils but also their fellow teachers. As well as earning a wage, our student-inductees will be based in the same school throughout the entire programme, providing a degree of certainty and continuity that doesn’t exist currently.

We owe it to the children of this country to provide them with the best education possible by enabling well-qualified, enthusiastic people committed to a long-term career in teaching to enter the profession. Being wedded to orthodoxy is not an option.