A sting in the tail of induction
The way the Government is to allocate money to this year's upgraded induction arrangements for newly qualified teachers has raised fears that some could face problems getting the support they are entitled to receive.
Induction requirements for teachers entering the profession this September should mean they will get more support than their predecessors did, and will better classroom performers as a result.
But John Bangs, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, says: "We're extremely concerned that the government hasn't recognised the uneven patterns that exist in NQT recruitment." Money to support induction has been channelled through the Standards Fund, a block grant made to local authorities to cover a range of educational initiatives. Standards Fund money is allocated on the basis of pupil numbers. Yet new teacher recruitment is heavier in urban areas, where teacher mobility is greatest. As a result, schools in inner-city authorities could struggle to finance induction.
There are also problems in the way some LEAs may distribute the money. Some will use formula funding to distribute the cash to individual schools according to pupil numbers. Others, like Essex, which have retained a strong advisory service, may consult schools on distribution. But if a simple distribution according to numbers is used, schools that have no new teachers will still get more funding; smaller schools, which may have difficulty finding the time to carry out the close support the new scheme demands, will get less.
The Teacher Training Agency pilot scheme for induction assumed that funding would follow the newly qualified teacher. Its feasibility study considered induction credits, which would have guaranteed that schools had the necessary resources.
The Department for Education and Employment and Employment told The TES that "the lessons of the pilot projects were fed into the design of the new induction arrangements..." but that the " ...Standards Fund is the mechanism to support national training priorities and teachers' professional development".
The DFEE plans to monitor the ways LEAs distribute funding to schools, but critics of the scheme still argue that the funding process itself is flawed.
"It should have been clear and transparent and earmarked for the NQT," says Meryl Thompson, head of the policy unit at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. She says in some schools the induction funding could be lost in overall training budgets, leaving no specific money for individual support.
The costs of the scheme also could deter some schools from employing NQTs this year, says Ms Thompson: "We've heard many schools saying that this is too much commitment, more than they are capable of providing."
Essex LEA took part in the TTA's pilot scheme and its senior advisor Maureen Lee defended the scheme. "Where schools have experience of initial teacher training or mentoring they are well placed to deliver induction," she says.
Some Essex headteachers were concerned about their ability to meet the new scheme's demands and some may decide not to appoint new teachers to vacant posts this year. But, Ms Lee says, this was not a problem: "If heads are making a considered decision then that is probably a good thing. I'd be more worried if heads were going ahead despite their misgivings."
Essex has briefed heads and provided information to schools about induction. Funding in the county will target specific new teachers at primary level, though secondary schools will be funded through the county's pupil numbers formula.
All new teachers will have to pass induction - or face expulsion from the profession. For teachers who start their teaching life in supply work, Standards Funding could prove to be a serious problem. A supply teacher is often employed by one of the many teaching agencies, yet support for induction has to be provided by the school.
"It's quite clear that it's the school and the LEA which has the responsibility for induction," says Meryl Thompson. This raises the question of how induction could be arranged for a teacher who is not the employee of any one school and whose teaching time could be spread across different schools and even different LEAs.
During the consultation process last year ministers considered preventing new teachers from doing short-term supply work, but the idea was abandoned, probably because a reduction in the supply "pool" would create chaos in areas where schools rely heavily on supply teachers.
Teachers joining the profession this September will need to know exactly what they are entitled to and to ensure that they are kept informed about the progress of their induction.
An unpleasant surprise could await a new teacher who let things drift for too long.
Induction year, page 4