The introduction of statutory rules on induction is giving new teachers a smoother path into the profession, according to heads, local authorities and - perhaps most important - the newcomers themselves. As one head comments: "The tradition was sink or swim - now it's like helping to train Olympic athletes."
Research into England's induction during the year to September 2001 shows that 81 per cent of newly qualified teachers enjoyed their first year "very much" or "quite a lot". The survey covered heads, induction tutors, supply agencies, local authorities, and two cohorts of NQTs, with researchers visiting 24 schools around the UK. The results will form part of a consultation on the possible need to change some aspects of induction.
NQTs are treated more uniformly than they used to be, and schools are clearly offering better induction than they did before the new rules became statutory. Many have welcomed what they see as a radical change, while others say the rules have simply helped to tweak existing good practice.
The research failed to find anyone who had experienced disastrous induction, but about one NQT in three said provision had fallen short of expectations. Reasons included:
* not getting the 10 per cent reduced timetable throughout the year;
* having no structured programme to help make the best use of this time;
* receiving too little support from induction tutors.
The variability of provision is clearly unfair, and many NQTs said schools'
use of the pound;3,000 induction allowance should be more closely monitored than it has been.
Around 20 per cent of newcomers were not given their reduced timetable consistently. Release from the classroom reduces workload and offers a chance to follow courses and observe other teachers, so this can have serious consequences.
Most primary NQTs were timetabled to be out of their classroom for half a day a week, while newcomers in most secondary schools had more free periods. But sickness among other staff often forced the cancellation of this release time. Some schools did this only as a last resort and made up the lost time at a later date, but others seemed to view NQTs as a low priority and as a handy means to save on a supply teacher.
Almost one in three NQTs had no programme of activities, almost one in two had occasional activities, and about one in four had a year-long programme. Those who had drawn up a programme of activities with their induction tutors believed they had developed well. They said observation of other teachers, being observed themselves and getting feedback were the most useful activities. Almost one in three said courses often went over ground already covered at college, and so had been of little use.
Induction tutors played a crucial role. Many were committed to providing good induction - and for no reward - financial or for time off in lieu. Most had a demanding workload and said they could not devote sufficient time to induction. Some 14 per cent of NQTs found their tutors inaccessible, and 20 per cent said their tutors gave no useful advice.
The study also revealed misconceptions about induction. For example, many NQTs believed there was a time limit between gaining qualified teacher status and starting induction (there isn't). And there was widespread confusion among supply agencies about the "four-term rule" for NQTs doing supply work. Some had not received the relevant documents because these are not automatically sent to schools.
Some NQTs are still teaching subjects in which they are not trained, or in classes with a high incidence of behavioural problems. And more than one in three newcomers are working on temporary contracts.
So where does this leave you? If you're an NQT you could compare your induction with these findings and use your knowledge of them to ensure you get better provision from now on.
Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Statutory Arrangements for the Induction of Newly Qualified Teachers, by Michael Totterdell, Ruth Meilbronn, Sara Bubb and Cath Jones, is published by the DfES. For more information, visit www.dfes.gov.ukresearch
WHAT YOU'RE ENTITLED TO
* A 10 per cent lighter timetable than other class teachers in the school.
* A job description that makes no unreasonable demands.
* Meetings with a school induction tutor as well as half-termly reviews of progress.
* An individualised programme of support, monitoring and assessment.
* Objectives, informed by strengths and areas for development identified in the career-entry profile, to help you meet the induction standards.
* At least one observation of teaching each half-term with oral and written feedback.
* An assessment meeting and report at the end of each term.
* Procedures to air grievances at school and LEA levels.