In at the deep end

Teaching is wonderful, exhilarating and amazingly rewarding, but you’re unlikely to find the first year easy. That’s why people have campaigned long and hard to make sure that induction helps you make stacks of progress on the road to becoming a great teacher.

One new teacher I know said, “I’ve found this year bloody hard work, sometimes crushingly so. I would have collapsed under it if it wasn’t for the support of my school.”

So what can you do to ensure induction works well, even before the year starts? As soon as your certificate arrives saying that you have qualified teacher status, return the form to register with the General Teaching Council - there’s one each for England, Scotland and Wales. Don’t worry about the fee - £33 in England, £45 in Wales and £55 in Scotland - you’ll get it back in your pay. You also need to make sure your school has registered you with the “appropriate body”. This is the person who is in charge of induction at your local authority or the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel (ISCtip) if you are in the private sector. Some schools register you on the payroll, thinking that this is enough. It’s not, so check.

Look at the induction regulations on the Training and Development Agency for Schools website (www.tda.gov.uk) to look at the induction regulations and especially the 41 core standards. These range from a commitment to ensuring children reach their full potential to establishing a safe learning environment. These are what you have to meet by the end of your induction year, and they’re similar to the ones you met for qualified teacher status.

Sound easy? Remember that the consequen-ces are dire for those who don’t meet them. People who fail induction in England and Wales are never allowed to teach in maintained schools or non-maintained special schools again - ever. You can’t redo a term like you can on teaching practice and extensions are allowed only in special cases, such as being absent for more than 30 school days.

The failure rate is tiny - about one in 850 - so don’t get over anxious, but make sure induction is done properly.

In Scotland, new teachers have to complete probation and meet the standard for full registration. These range from knowing the curriculum and planning stimulating teaching programmes, to taking responsibility for their professional development and being active in the community (details on www.gtcs.org.uk). Teachers whose probation is cancelled are not allowed to teach for three years.

This is what schools in England and Wales have to give you on your induction year:

- A 10 per cent lighter timetable.

- No unreasonable demands.

- Meetings with your school induction tutor. These should start with the transition point two discussion, using the Career Entry and Development Profile (CEDP). Visit www.tda.gov.uk/teachers/induction/cedp.aspx.

- Objectives to help you meet core standards.

- A programme of support, monitoring and assessment that’s personalised to your needs.

- At least one observation of teaching each six to eight weeks, with written feedback.

- Half-termly reviews of progress.

- An assessment meeting and report each term.

While you’re on induction in England and Wales, your job shouldn’t make “unreasonable demands”. You shouldn’t have exceptionally difficult pupils, teach subjects or age groups that you are not trained for, or take on a management role. If you think the demands are unreasonable, if your timetable includes too many bottom sets, for example, see your mentor.

Headteachers are contractually obliged to give teachers on induction a 10 per cent lighter timetable than other class teachers in the school, on top of planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time. Check your timetable to make sure. The reduced timetable shouldn’t be used for catching up with planning or marking, but for your professional development.

New teachers say that they learn most from observing others, working alongside other staff and gaining ideas from courses. Training pitch-ed at new teachers not only develops knowledge and skills but provides emotional support that is vital in helping your resilience.

Someone on the staff should act as your induction tutor. This is an important role but people’s understanding of it varies considerably so you might need to help them to help you. In research that I’ve carried out, nearly a quarter of new teachers considered that their induction tutor hadn’t given effective guidance because they didn’t have enough time and knowledge to carry out the role. One NQT said: “I had to tell her what to do.”

Unlike other systems, such as in California where full-time mentors are employed to support new teachers, induction tutors in England and Wales are teachers who often take on the role with no recompense. Show them the induction section of the TDA website, especially the end of term assessment forms that require them to write about how you’re doing against the standards. These were new last September.

Show them your career entry and development profile and fix a date to discuss transition point two at the beginning of term. Together you should prioritise your most important needs and draw up an action plan of things to do each week that will help you to meet them.

Let your induction tutor know you’re keen to be observed - the first should be in the first four weeks, but the sooner the better. By the end of the second week the honeymoon period is over and problems are starting to occur so get observed then. It’ll reassure you what you’re doing right and help nip problems in the bud.

Use your induction tutor to diagnose what’s going well and what needs improvement. Prioritise the things that will have the biggest impact, because everything in teaching is interconnected. So problems with managing children’s behaviour are often the consequence of other issues related to planning, pace, explanations, subject knowledge, relationships, expectations or assessment processes.

Some new teachers don’t get their full entitlement and feel awkward about asking for it, but it’s your professional duty to be the best you can. You’ll be doing all your future pupils a favour if you make the most of induction

Sara Bubb is an education consultant and lectures at the Institute of Education in London

How it should be done

On the face of it, Fenstanton Primary near Brixton in Lambeth, south London, isn’t an easy place to work.

It is in one of the most deprived areas in the country, the staff face lots of challenges, but the school provides great induction support, monitoring and assessment.

The four new teachers last year were carefully recruited and most spent time in the school before the induction year started. Caroline Johnson, the induction tutor, is experienced and has been on accredited training. Inthu Mathysoody, a new teacher, says, “She is always there to help and advise.”

Other staff gave informal support, too. The new teachers were fully involved in whole school training, plus programmes of activities to meet their own needs.

They’ve all become effective teachers and their pupils are motoring as a result.

Before term starts

- Register with the GTC and the appropriate local body.

- Check your timetable to ensure you have a 10 per cent reduction for induction and 10 per cent for planning, preparation and assessment.

- Make sure your job description doesn’t make unreasonable demands.

Week 1

Meet your induction tutor to discuss your career entry and development profile; set objectives; draw up a programme to help you meet them; set dates for observations; and agree a date just before half-term to review progress.

- Get to know staff and how the school works.

Week 4

- Be observed and tweak your objectives and induction support programme accordingly.

Useful websites

www.gtce.org.uk

www.gtcs.org.uk

www.gtcw.org.uk

www.tda.gov.uk