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Staying power

That's what new staff need help in developing, says Sara Morgan (right).

The support is there, she tells Alison Shepherd

There is a new breed of early career teacher out there: savvy, wise and experienced in industry. They are hungry to develop their teaching and learning skills, but interested in their career development and eager to get on the ladder really quickly."

So says Sara Morgan, access manager of the General Teaching Council's Teacher Learning Academy. She believes one of the council's most important roles is to support teachers in their quest to improve professionally.

Set against this vision of thrusting, mature entrants is the very high exit rate of these same teachers, worn out, if not burnt out, by the demands of the profession. This exodus of people who have spent just a few years in the classroom is exercising the minds of educationists everywhere in the developed world. American, Australian and Canadian schools all face the same future of ageing, soon-to-retire teachers and short-term entrants.

Research suggests that the answer is universal: more support and encouragement for staff to develop professionally, because it is lack of status and recognition that are often cited as important factors in the decision to quit.

The GTC's particular answer is to create a mesh of virtual networks - Engage, Connect and Achieve - designed to offer advice and bring teachers together to support each other. Engage, the new teachers' network, was brought under Morgan's wing this summer.

The other way the GTC supports professional development is the Teacher Learning Academy. Still in pilot form, it offers recognition for the previously tacit professional development that teachers undergo as they gain in experience. It offers graduated levels of academic challenge, so teachers, from NQT up to head, can enter at a stage that suits them best.

"All the work submitted must be completely embedded in the teacher's school work. It offers the credible, formal recognition of professional development that they deserve," says Morgan. To gain accreditation, the teacher must fulfil six core criteria, which for an NQT can help develop th habit of reflecting on her working practice. Morgan explains: "At stage 1, an NQT may find herself struggling to settle her Year 10 RE class in the first 10 minutes. So, with the help of her mentor, she can focus on what she needs to do to get that class concentrating.

"Using the six key processes (above) she can really think about the problem, and, by reporting back on how the issue was overcome and how she will move on, a credit can be gained.

"At this level it is really is not onorous, but can be made part of the everyday work of the new teacher and develop good working practices."

The recognition, Morgan believes, creates many benefits for the individual, the school and the profession as a whole. In a world of that includes the "excellent teacher", in which performance and results can affect a teacher's progression and bank balance, an evidence-based credit can do wonders as heads make decisions on promotion. Research shows that teachers who reflect on their teaching find their professional life becomes much more rewarding as they become more effective and engage their pupils more.

Therefore, they are more likely to want to stay in the classroom.

Neither the GTC nor the Teacher Learning Academy offer specific, taught courses but they offer advice on where the answers may be found. They work closely with the Training Development Agency for Schools, the Department for Education and Skills, the subject associations and teacher- training colleges. And, of course, there is the untold wealth of experience that can be found in the networks and the other virtual forums where teachers gather, including The TES website staffroom.

Morgan, who joined the GTC last November, was formerly vice-principal of Hillcrest community college, in Dudley, in the West Midlands. There she was responsible for continuing professional development and 15 NQTs. "That experience and my 26 years as a teacher have given me a grasp on the real world and what the issues are for new teachers. I hope to be able to use that to help a new generation of teachers.

"The key to it all is teaching and learning. We believe that if we can help teachers get that right the rest will follow. "

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