New kids on the rack

Schools should not get away with neglecting and mistreating newly qualified teachers, says Sara Bubb

What do you do with that one child who spoils things for the others, who doesn't play fairly, who bullies? As a last resort perhaps some sanction is needed. Hmmm...well, what should we do with the minority of rogue schools who don't treat newly-qualified teachers properly?

I was recently involved in a large NQT research project. We found no one who did not consider induction worthwhile. Yet one in five NQTs did not get the time off in working hours to which they are entitled. A third felt their induction was poor. So, why are all schools not doing it properly, especially as it is compulsory?

Working with new teachers and as agony aunt at The TES, I hear of lots of people who have experiences that bear little resemblance to the induction outlined in official regulations and guidance.

Problems range from low-level neglect to flagrant refusal to comply with regulations. There is a small but significant number of induction tutors who do not know what they should be doing, have not been trained, do not do their job properly, or who just do not have time for NQTs.

There are schools that do not fill in termly assessment reports that have to be sent to the local education authority. They fail to observe new teachers or, when they are observed, give no feedback. I know schools that refuse NQTs a reduced timetable on the grounds that they have small classes, in spite of their time out of the classroom being so fundamental that it's enshrined in school teachers' pay and conditions. I've met heads who decide that their NQT can do without induction because the school supported them during the Graduate Teacher Programme or because they're very competent, as if these things made any difference to every teacher's right to a bridge from training, and to professional development. Do these schools then return the pound;3,000 they get for the induction of each NQT? I haven't heard of it happening.

Though the induction policy doesn't mention contracts, our research found 35 per cent of NQTs on temporary ones. Clearly many schools are discriminating against them. I know a school that rarely renews NQTs'

one-year contracts, preferring to get new, cheap labour each year so they can keep their salary budgets down: a continuous supply of cannon fodder.

What can new teachers do when their school doesn't play by the rules? Well, evidence suggests that sooner or later they leave, and often stop teaching.

Though there are meant to be procedures for them to air dissatisfaction at both school and LEA level, NQTs understandably rarely use them. Who is going to complain about their assessor - the head and induction tutor - when he or she can recommend a fail? Remember a fail can result in the NQT being forever barred from teaching in a state school. This is a draconian punishment for someone who has a bad first year.

But where is the accountability and punishment for the rogue schools who waste public resources and hinder or ruin a career? Inspectors make a small judgment about induction but heads can just sort things out for the inspection. LEAs have to monitor induction but in practice have limited powers and resources to make schools stick to the rules. Many LEAs do not make enough effort to find out what is really going on.

What kind of profession allows members to break the law, to mistreat its newest, most vulnerable recruits? Why aren't schools that don't stick to the rules barred from having NQTs until they prove that they will fulfil their responsibilities, just like schools in special measures? And why aren't there ways to check up on schools that don't rely on NQTs having to "tell' on those in charge of them?

Sara Bubb (s.bubb@ioe.ac.uk) is an induction consultant for LEAs, works with NQTs at the Institute of Education, London University, and is The TES's agony aunt for new teachers. 'Improving Induction: research-based best practice for schools', by Sara Bubb, Ruth Heilbronn, Cath Jones, Michael Totterdell and Maxine Bailey, is published by Routledge Falmer, price pound;19.99

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