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Deck the halls in piles of paper

Monthly diary of a new probationer

Reports, reports, reports. In my first year of teaching, I have come to realise that the season of goodwill is preceded by quite a different one in the education sector: the season of reports!

What with pupil interim reports, reporting to parents and of course the probationer interim reports, the sea of paperwork is rather daunting. As a novice, I thought it best to seek help rather than wade in head first.

I approached my supporter first and asked for her advice on how to write pupil interim reports, particularly for those who were not performing well or had discipline issues. After a good discussion and a stab at writing a report myself, I was supplied with examples from various year groups, the variety covering the best reports and those that were not so good. This was a great help in knowing how much information to write and the differences in language used for younger and older pupils.

I also met up with a few other probationers in my rare spare time to discuss the different approaches taken in our schools, in the hope of sharing best practices. Some had been given or found on the Internet helpful sheets with common phrases or guidelines on how to be diplomatic with the truth. This was a godsend as most of us were anxious about how to phrase "Never shuts up and never completes their work" in a tactful way.

We also discussed the involvement of our classes' 0.3 teachers in writing the reports. Among us, this varied from full collaboration to no involvement whatsoever. I think this is an area that should be clarified uniformily, as I'm sure schools are uncertain about giving total control to the probationer (as it is technically their class) and appearing to negate the children's 0.3 teacher's involvement.

A similar issue concerned parents' night. If two probationers share a class between them, then it stands to reason that they both report to the parents. However, in some schools probationers spoke to parents at the same time, while in others they divided the parents between them.

In schools where the probationer and another teacher are responsible for delivering the curriculum, parents' night varied from both the probationer and teacher talking to parents at the same time, to the probationer and teacher each talking to half of the parents, to the teacher attending the first parents' night and the probationer taking the second.

Maybe it should be left to schools to decide the protocol, but some uniformity could be helpful.

At my school, I and the other class teacher shared the parents between us but spoke to all those who requested to see us. This was fine by me and seemed to please the parents.

Finally, I must confess that the most troublesome report of all is my own interim profile. Most of the documents distributed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland have been very useful and are to be commended for providing material for a programme that is essentially the product of the Scottish Executive. However, at times like this it would be useful to see an example. As someone who freezes when it comes to formal documentation, a worked example provides reassurance that I am following procedure.

On an aside, a probationer who works in another region mentioned something to me which I hope is only rumour. Apparently it is being mooted that probationers cannot apply for positions until the end of June, as they will not know before then if their probationary year has been successful or not.

Granted probationers cannot enter another teaching position until the year is over, but if we cannot apply for jobs due to the unknown outcome of the full year, then why have continuous assessment and interim profiles? Surely the fact that we meet with supporters once a week, have class observations and have to complete interim profiles means that come June the decision is merely a formality and one that should hold no surprises.

I, for one, would be outraged if, at the end of June, I received an extension to my probation or was not recommended when this outcome had not been alerted as a possibility during the year.

Surely employers could receive references from a probationer's placement school and, if all is well, offer a post subject to formal recommendation.

I will look into this more.

So far I have not even mentioned Christmas. I'm too busy to think about it and haven't bought one single card or present. But what I do know is, compared to previous jobs, this will probably be one of the best jobs in the world during December.

Season's greetings to you all and Happy New Year when it comes!

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