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Lean on me

The quality of mentoring is down to luck, but Sara Bubb advises on how to make the most of it

How are you getting on with staff in your school? Do you feel safe to talk about problems and get help? Other new teachers can give you valuable emotional support. It's one of the key things you get from any NQT course: anything else is a bonus.

Induction tutors can really help in your first year, but if they don't do their job properly they can scupper your chances of success, because on a day to-day basis they are responsible for your monitoring, support and assessment.

They're not just mentors, they are there to help if the need arises. They must ensure you understand all about induction, set objectives and design a personalised programme to meet them, co-ordinate observations and review and assess you.

Well, that's the theory. In practice things are far from perfect because there's no requirement for any training. In California, experienced teachers are seconded for a couple of years to work as mentors across several schools and get high-quality training.

In Estonia, mentors have to complete 160 hours of training. In Scotland, they have half a day to work with new teachers. But in England, induction tutors don't have to have any training and aren't guaranteed any time.

Nevertheless, some are wonderful. They're experienced, have attended accredited training and maintain detailed files.

Some schools seem to see induction as necessary only if you're struggling. One new teacher said: "I feel people at my school made their minds up quite quickly that I was going to be fine and left me to it."

You need to help improve things. Agree a regular time to meet and draw up a brief agenda. A recent survey found two-thirds of NQTs were happy with their meetings, but a third would have liked more. Pass on any information you have, drawing their attention to the new core standards and any induction tutor training that you hear about. For my courses, email ***

Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction. Her Successful Induction for New Teachers has just been published by Paul Chapman, Pounds 18.99

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