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First Step - Check the small print

Take the time to read your contract to find out what to expect and what's expected of you. It's important to get acquainted with what you'll be paid and when, and your professional duties

Take the time to read your contract to find out what to expect and what's expected of you. It's important to get acquainted with what you'll be paid and when, and your professional duties

Have you read your contract of employment yet? If you're about to start your first teaching job, you need to get to grips with it and the statutory induction guidance before the mountain of planning and marking descends on you in September.

It's surprising how many teachers have never read their contract of employment or who sign on the dotted line without even asking the most basic questions, such as: "How much will I be paid?" and "What period of notice do I have to give?"

Reading and understanding the pay and conditions and induction documents in full will probably take a month and require a law degree, but you should at least read the relevant sections about your salary and general professional duties as a newly qualified teacher. You should also acquaint yourself with induction and the roles and responsibilities of NQTs, induction tutors, headteachers, governing bodies and the local authority.

First and foremost, look at your pay. How much you're paid is determined by your status. As long as you have UK qualified teacher status, you'll be paid on the main pay scale. Most NQTs start on M1.

Starting on a higher point because you have work-based experience or a higher degree is at the discretion of the school governing body, not a right. If you teach in a difficult-to-recruit subject or location, you might be able to negotiate an extra payment. Normally, your contract will start on September 1 and you'll be paid a month in arrears.

If you are a supply teacher, there isn't a standard rate of pay. Private agencies can set whatever rates they wish, but if you are employed by a local authority it must pay you according to the main pay scale.

Any contract of employment (including long-term supply teaching) that lasts for at least a term will count for the purposes of induction. A school must register a NQT with the local authority and follow the statutory guidelines.

If you work part-time, then everything is done pro-rata. During induction you're entitled to time and support as well as being observed and assessed against the core induction standards.

You will receive: a 10 per cent reduction in your timetable for induction- related activities (in addition to the normal planning, preparation and assessment time); support from an induction tutor; a negotiated induction programme, based on your career entry and development profile; an observation of your teaching in the first four weeks; follow-up discussions and written reports, then a series of observations every half- term (termly for part-time NQTs).

You will also be eligible for professional half-termly reviews of your progress by the induction tutor, opportunities to observe experienced teachers, other targeted professional development activities and three summative assessment meetings with the headteacher. Assessment reports, based on these summative meetings, will be sent to the local authority. The first two reports chart your progress towards meeting the core standards. In the final report, the headteacher indicates whether or not you have met the induction standards.

So if you haven't received your contract yet, chase it up. Ensure you read the relevant parts of the pay and conditions document and the statutory guidance on induction. As for notice period, all resignations must be handed in by the end of October, February and May to leave at the end of the autumn, spring and summer term respectively. But you haven't even started yet - so hopefully you won't need this information for a while.

James Williams is a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex

Your professional duties

The primary one is teaching, but there are other aspects to your job that form the basis of your contract of employment. You must:

- Promote the development of your pupils' abilities and aptitudes according to their educational needs.

- Plan and prepare courses and lessons assigned to you.

- Assess pupils, record and report on their development, progress and attainment.

- Promote the general progress and well-being of individual pupils in your class.

- Provide guidance and advice to pupils on educational and social matters and on their future education and careers, including where to find expert advice.

- Make records of and reports on the personal and social needs of pupils.

- Communicate and consult with the parents or guardians of pupils by providing or contributing to oral and written assessments, reports and references.

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