The General Teaching Council for Scotland

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The Flexible Route in a year

Career changers may find the Flexible Route meets all their needs as two newly qualified teachers show the benefits that the pathway can offer

Completing probationary service as a teacher via the Flexible Route is not so well publicised, or taken up, as our renowned Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS). In 2017, 2,470 probationers gained Full Registration through the TIS, with around 619 through the Flexible Route. The guaranteed one-year fulltime teaching post via the TIS offers security and an excellent induction to the profession. So why choose the more unknown and less understood Flexible Route? Well, for our mature and confident career changers, now increasingly being encouraged to join the profession, it is exactly its flexibility that is attractive. At GTC Scotland’s annual National Probationer Event in June, for the first time probationers who had reached the Standard for Full Registration in one year via the Flexible Route were invited along.

Teaching Scotland met with two of these teachers to find out why they had chosen the Flexible Route and how the experience had been for them.

Dougie Kinnear, Secondary Biology Teacher, Aboyne Academy, Aberdeenshire

It had been 20 years since I’d been at university. I went into sales after graduating and worked in Aberdeen until two years ago, when there was the crash in the oil and gas industry. It was a chance to start thinking what could be the next step for me?I saw that there were adverts and stories in the press about the need for teachers. So I started to have a little look about whether I would qualify and the more I found out about it, the more I thought this is finally the right time to do it.

It’s just been a fantastic experience and I really wish that I’d done it sooner.

I’ve got a young family, a two-and-and-a-half year old at home, so making that leap into not earning for a year was a big sacrifice. Even now that I am earning it’s quite hard. But ever since I started the process and went into my school for the first time, I’ve loved it. It’s just been a fantastic experience and I really wish that I’d done it sooner. I did a PGDE last year at the University of Aberdeen. It was only three or four weeks after getting accepted onto the course that it began. There were places still available because they were trying to increase the volume of science teachers on the course. The Flexible Route throughout university was discussed as a “you really don’t want to do this” kind of option. It was seen as a scary prospect and I was advised that I would get far more support if I went down the Teacher Induction Scheme route. And that was my plan. Maybe naively I thought to myself that I’d get a job in Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire.

New system to record progress on the Flexible Route

GTC Scotland will be launching a new online profile for Flexible Route probationers this autumn. The profile, available via MyGTCS, will be similar to the Teacher Induction Scheme profile. The aim is to have a new system that is easy to use and that makes best use of available technology to ensure a smooth running experience. Further information and supporting guidance will be made available on the In2Teaching website:

So I put down my five choices, which were the five closest local authorities: Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Angus and Dundee, and I ended up getting placed in my third choice, which was Moray. I found out that my placement would have required a two-and-a-half-hour drive every morning and every night, or potentially staying away from my family throughout the week, which we just couldn’t manage. So, after about 48 hours of panic thinking what am I going to do, I started applying for jobs. The good thing was there were quite a few jobs for Biology. I got a number of interviews lined up and was lucky enough to get offered a job at my second interview, and that was with Aboyne. They said they had quite a bit of experience dealing with Flexible Route probationers and immediately talked about being able to give me the same levels of support as a traditional probationer in terms of a mentor. I know they didn’t have to do that and they didn’t have to reduce my timetable, but they did – I had a mentor meeting every single week and I had a reduced timetable like a standard probationer. Here in Aboyne I’ve been really lucky that they’ve given me all the support that I possibly could have needed, and more, and I think I’ve really flourished here. I don’t know if everyone is the same, but for me the Flexible Route has not been an issue. Aboyne Academy has been fantastically supportive.

Victoria McNicol, Secondary Home Economics Teacher, Ardrossan Academy, North Ayrshire

When I left school I wanted to be a primary teacher, but I didn’t get in when I applied all those years ago. So I changed direction and I did my degree in hospitality and management. I worked for lots of different businesses and later decided to start my own place, and bought a hotel on the Isle of Arran when I was 25. My husband and I then bought a bar and a restaurant in Brodick. We had both running and by that time, we had three boys. So we sold the hotel, kept the bar and restaurant, but leased that out when I got pregnant with the fourth boy. And then I felt that it wasn’t satisfying me – what good was I doing for life – was what I was thinking. I was serving alcohol to people who were abusing it and food to people that could abuse it – deep down there was something missing in me. So I thought why not go back to teaching, which is what I had always wanted to do. I went for my interview at Strathclyde for primary teaching, and they asked who had been my most influential teacher and why, and that was my

At the beginning I would email the GTCS and say, what do I do, how do I submit this, and they were fantastic – somebody would always email me back with the answer
Home Economics teacher. So then I thought, that’s my background, that’s what I’ve done for all these years, so I changed and did Home Economics. I didn’t know anything about the Flexible Route until I was on placement in Greenwood Academy and one of the other teachers said to me, do you know of this other option. I hadn’t heard anything about it at university – nobody had talked about it. I had been given a school within North Ayrshire on the Teacher Induction Scheme; however, there was no Home Economics department – it hadn’t been running for four years. I felt that was an enormous pressure – there was nobody to work with and our last day at university was all about collaborative learning. There was nothing collaborative about this, and I was given a full teacher’s timetable. I didn’t want to let the school down; however, I had to look out for what was right for me. I thought it should be about working with someone else and sharing ideas, and having someone to reflect your teaching as well, to help you.

Then a job came up at Ardrossan Academy for a year’s contract that had a department and another member of staff to work with. So that’s why I decided to go down the Flexible Route. I’ve been working full time since taking the post. I had a mentor for half of the year before she went on maternity leave, and not the capacity I think you would normally get on the Teacher Induction Scheme. I worked a full teacher’s timetable and had very few free periods to observe more experienced teachers, but I didn’t mind that challenge. Because of my background I’ve been working on making links with local businesses and have already placed one of my pupils in the kitchens in a really busy hotel/ restaurant. I took 15 of my pupils recently to Ayrshire College to let them see the brand new training restaurant and bar that they’ve installed. They’re amazed at what they can do with their skills. I want them to see the bigger picture – education shouldn’t just stop at fifth year, or fourth year for some. The world is their oyster, I keep saying to them; they don’t need to stay in North Ayrshire in Scotland. On reflection it’s been quite a full-on year, but I definitely wouldn’t have changed it. It’s been brilliant – I wish I’d done it years ago. At the beginning I would email the GTCS and say, what do I do, how do I submit this, and they were fantastic – somebody would always email me back with the answer. Some headteachers are not aware that probationers on the Flexible Route can become fully qualified within a year if they teach full time at the same school. I would recommend the option to others if there was a job available in a school and they knew they were able to get a mentor and somebody to share ideas with, because that’s what it’s all about.

Teaching Scotland

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Editor contact: Evelyn Wilkins

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