Ring the changes loud and clear

Rules on induction are under review and the proposed U-turns are urgently needed. writes Sara Bubb

If you're reading this, you will probably be affected by the rules on induction. There is now a consultation in progess that will continue until February 19 on some much needed amendments to the regulations.

There are four changes being proposed. They seem like common sense, so one might presume that they would go through on the nod. But some people are vehemently against them. One writer on The TES online staffroom forum says:

"We need to make it harder for people to enter the profession. There are too many cheap teachers and teaching assistants around as it is."

If you have steam coming out of your ears over this issue, go to the Department for Education and Skills' website* and make your views known.

The first proposal is to allow people with qualified teacher status to do induction in further education colleges. At the moment they cannot. Rather, they must do induction in the first year that they work in a school, no matter how experienced they might be by then. The trouble is that they'll be constrained by the same awkward rules as apply to sixth-form colleges.

No more than 10 per cent of the newly qualified teachers' practice should be devoted to teaching classes of pupils who are mostly aged 19 and above.

And they must spend at least 10 days teaching pupils of compulsory school age.

Induction tutors must have qualified teacher status and have completed induction. Add to this the continuing controversy over people with a PGCE in further education not having qualified teacher status and you can see that things are very problematic.

Barriesmart, a contributor to the TES online staffroom forum is outraged by this. "It's ludicrous to suggest," he writes, "that appropriately qualified FE teachers have to retrain because they are not 'qualified' while school teachers are qualified to teach in FE and can be inducted in FE and retain their right to work in school."

The second proposal is to give the "appropriate bodies" (local education authorites) discretion to decide when periods shorter than a full school term can be counted towards induction. At present, someone starting a job two weeks into September 2004 would only be able to complete induction two weeks into September 2005. That means a lot of hassle over the end-of-term reports, to say nothing of anyone leaving at the end of a term.

But flexibility brings with it the chance for varied and unfair treatment as well as more confusion. At the moment, only periods of a full term can be counted towards induction, but the third proposal will allow NQTs to do induction for half a term in one school and half in another - in the same authority. This change will be good for people in areas where it is hard to get work. But there is a snag. It will only be possible where everyone involved knows at the outset that the NQT will be employed in this way so that plans are made for a coherent induction programme.

I cannot see many situations in which that would be the case. The most straightforward proposal is to allow LEAs to extend even further the current limit on short-term supply work. At present, NQTs can only do short-term supply for four terms and the clock starts ticking from the first day's work and doesn't stop if the person in question is not working.

In September 2003 the law changed, giving local education authorities discretion to extend the period of short-term supply work by up to 12 months. If the proposed changes are realised, there will be no limit on the extensions a newly qualified teacher can request, nor on the number of extensions a local authority can grant.

That will be good news for primary teachers in the North West and South West, for example, where jobs are hard to come by.

It's a good idea to register your views with the DfES (via the website below). You can download the questionnaire or respond online. It is all very straightforward. You're asked questions such as: "Do you support the proposed changes to allow further extensions to the amount of short-term supply work which NQTs can undertake prior to completing induction?' You simply click yes or no. If you disagree, there are asked give your reasons.

Annoyingly, there is no provision for writing about why you agree or to explain which parts you like or don't like. But don't let that put you off - just use the same box.

While you're there you could exercise your democratic right by responding to other consultations such as those on proposals aimed at defending teachers from false allegations or on changes to the teachers' pension scheme.

Let's hear the voices of you 41,000 people who are now in training to teach - it's your future.

* www.dfes.gov.ukconsultationsSara Bubb is an induction expert. She answers queries on the new teacher section of TES website: www.tes.co.ukstaffroom). Her book, 'Insider's Guide for New Teachers', is published by TES RoutledgeFalmer, price pound;12.99

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