Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of initial teacher training, many would agree that the first year in the job is the real test of whether someone is destined to make a success of a teaching career. New entrants are no longer bit players, but lead actors, and their colleagues expect them to know the script. The children can be more of a challenge and the support of the student group - where horrors were shared and advice proffered - is suddenly taken away.
It's a double challenge, for not only do the professional skills need to be honed and developed, but there is also the stress of a new workplace, with its hierarchies and structures, traditions and politics.
Over the next two years reforms initiated by the Teacher Training Agency should act to make that transition from training to teaching smoother and less problematic. The career entry profile and the induction year are designed to ensure that new teachers get off to the right start in schools. They may also reduce the leaching out from the profession of teachers who fail to receive the support they need in that crucial first year.
At the University College of Worcester, students have already begun discussing the profile with tutors and head of ITT Chris Oulton thinks that filling in the document will be a "fairly simple matter". Chris welcomes the format of the profile, especially compared with the weightier tome which had featured in the pilot study.
"This is a greatly slimmed down document," he says. "And a case of the TTA listening to reaction from providers."
Sheri Kurowski is on her final teaching practice at the Lyndon School in Solihull. A mature student with the Open University, Sheri was an electronic engineer before entering teacher training.
She will be looking for secondary science posts in the Solihull area this September. Her entry profile will be filled in as the end point in a process of evaluation and development which has been an integral part of her course.
"We've discussed strengths and weaknesses throughout," says Sheri. "The profile is a good way to smooth entry into the profession. It provides a good baseline for my newly qualified teacher year."
Sheri's mentor at Lyndon is Jeremy Edwards. "I was quite impressed with the profile," he says. "Certainly when I started teaching there was nothing to document strengths, weaknesses and development needs in this way."
In Essex 24 teachers had been involved in the TTA pilot and arrived with entry profiles in September. Adviser Maureen Lee welcomes the document.
"Our experience is that it has many strengths," she says. "It creates a dialogue between the school and the new teacher about strengths and weaknesses and the need for appropriate professional development."
Maureen Lee feels that the profile allows schools to shape induction programmes to the individual teacher's needs, an outcome welcomed by the Teacher Training Agency's Frankie Sulke.
"We are stressing the importance of induction becoming more individualised," she says. Ms Sulke felt that the action plan should be decided as early as possible in the new entrant's post, before the start of term if feasible.
"This is a crucial time in the induction of the new teacher," she says. Ms Sulke also stresses the importance of the "personal" section of the profile.
"This is a 'look in the mirror'. New teachers should look at the strengths and weaknesses section and reflect . . . needs, what are the things that, as a teacher, I personally want to look at and develop when I get into a school?'."
Certainly students who fill in that third section carefully will be in a stronger bargaining situation when they arrive in their new post and have to negotiate training needs with their mentor.
The Open University's PGCE programme director, Ann Shelton Mays, thinks that the way new teachers are supported will vary from school to school. In some schools, where induction programmes are already in place offering support for new entrants, there would be few problems.
Smaller schools, or schools which had not appointed a newly qualified teacher for some time, would need additional support.
"How schools are briefed and encouraged to go about this process will be crucial," Ms Shelton Mays says.
Sheri Kurowski is realistic about this part of the process. "Whether a school is going to be geared up to help me achieve those targets I don't know," she says. "I'm using the profile for my own target setting."
Concerns that the profiles could fall victim to the current drive to eliminate unnecessary paperwork are probably groundless. Few people The TES spoke to saw the profiles as unnecessary bureaucracy, quite the reverse.
"It will give in-service training co-ordinators a way to target support," said Jeremy Edwards. "It's an essential part of professional development . . . personally I don't see this as a bureaucratic chore at all."
For once the agencies appear to have have produced that very rare creature: a universally welcomed government initiative.
GIVE THEM YOUR BEST PROFILE
All students who achieve qualified teacher status this summer will arrive in their first post with a career entry profile. The profile has four sections:
* a summary of the initial training experience.
* an analysis of the newly qualified teacher's strengths and weaknesses, identifying areas for further professional development.
* the NQT's own analysis of their professional development need for their first year in teaching.
* an action plan, negotiated between the NQT and the school, which aims to ensure that there is a planned programme of monitoring and support, and which acknowledges the needs identified in the profile and relates them to the school's targets and development plan.
The first two sections are completed towards the end of initial teacher training.
The third section should be completed by NQTs after qualified teacher status is awarded, and the final section is completed, once in post, by the NQT in discussion with the member of staff responsible for their induction.
From September 1999, the career entry profile will be followed by an induction year. Initially, it was expected that the two would be introduced together. Certainly the profile assumes that induction programmes will be in place for NQTs. As it is, this year's graduates will not have the support - or the ordeal - of the induction process.
Induction will involve close monitoring and support for NQTs throughout their first year.
NQTs will be expected to progress beyond the standards for QTS status and demonstrate that they are meeting the targets identified in the entry profile.
Teachers after 1999 who fail to meet induction targets will not have their teacher status confirmed - effectively removing them from the profession.