It is at this early point of the school year that the mentors of trainee teachers start to realise that things may be trickier than they first imagined. The sudden crushing onslaught of expectation and work has arrived and any preconception that this fledgling teacher is an extra pair of hands has vanished: the trainee is in effect another student and the mentor needs to be ready for the responsibility that their role entails.
With an ever-increasing focus on school-based initial teacher education, the importance of getting mentorship right is all the more crucial. At Brunel University London, we have developed short training programmes to guide mentors through this role.
A mentor's primary job is to ensure that students meet the professional standards required of them. They should also familiarise themselves with trainees' CPD needs and use those as a basis for planning a successful placement experience. School mentors have a formal role to play in the assessment of trainees' progress. They must evaluate the trainee's skills each week and complete standardised records after classroom observations, paying particular attention to subject knowledge.
In the early days
There is, or should be, support for the mentors from university-based link tutors. The job of these tutors is to monitor trainees' progress but also to help mentors in their delivery of the school experience. As well as this, tutors should carry out classroom observations with mentors to ensure that the latter are fully acquainted with the requirements of a qualification that is both academic and professional.
Although universities and colleges recognise that mentors are busy professionals and may not always have the time to meet and discuss preparations in detail, in the very early stages of a placement, mentors are expected to ensure that:
- Trainees' planning and assessment files are organised and up to date.
- Targets for development are appropriate.
- Trainees understand the school's system for assessment and record-keeping and are familiar with records of students' progress.
- Trainees understand the plans the school has devised to facilitate student progress.
- Trainees are familiar with existing lessons plans, which should inform their own.
- Trainees understand that mentors will not only discuss but also approve teaching plans prior to delivery.
- Expectations for the year
- Over the rest of the academic year, mentors should:
- Work closely with the university link tutor to ensure that the trainee has the very best school experience.
- Keep up to date with developments in mentoring and attend training provided by the partner university.
- Provide induction programmes on school procedures for trainees.
- Plan a timetable that meets the needs of trainees in line with the expectations of the programme of study they are on.
- Ensure that they make space in the timetable for one-to-one meetings to discuss trainees' progress.
- Review and approve lesson plans, allowing time for trainees to act on any feedback.
- Ensure that trainees are observed at least once a week or as often as appropriate, with written feedback relating to the standards framework.
- Undertake joint observations of teaching with link tutors.
- Monitor the assessment of students' progress by trainees.
- Monitor and report on the progress of trainees during their placement in school.
- Meet with the trainee and university link tutor to discuss the trainee's profile and identify areas for further development.
- Assess trainees against standards and agree a grade.
- Engage with the university in interviewing potential trainees, and participate in programme evaluations and development meetings to ensure that the training is fit for purpose.
Ian Rivers is professor of human development and head of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University London
All these expectations will have been discussed in mentor training and in sessions preparing trainees for their placements, so there should be no surprises for the mentor or the trainee in the first few days at school.