A word in the right ear

7th May 1999 at 01:00
Primary teachers missing any information on Luke Darlington's first-job checklists, should ask their mentor or colleagues.

Induction includes many informal, voluntary aspects which are outside statutory arrangements but which are relevant to all new employees wherever good practice is to be seen. New teachers should take every opportunity to gain advance information and, if possible, you could make good use of two full-day visits to see the school at work.

On the first day you could meet the staff and the children, begin to become familiar with the building and learn where resources are kept, including the stock cupboard, and mathematics, science and PE equipment. On the second day you could discover things you didn't think of or have time for on the first. You might need to ask for some of the following, but you could expect to receive:

* the school handbook, so that you have full details about the establishment's organisation and management, the governors, the staff structure, curricular responsibilities and general routines.

* a copy of the latest OFSTED report and action plan, with the denominational report and action plan if it is a voluntary school

* a front door key, the security code and the caretaker's home telephone number

* detailed information about the children in your future class, its size, whether it is a split year group andor key stage, including records of attainment and pupil profiles - vital if yours is a mid-year appointment

* information about registration and money-collection

* schemes of work and information about dailyweeklyhalf-termlytermly class planning procedures, including photocopying facilities

* update on the school's progress with the Internet and the National Grid for Learning

* sight of all the school's policies, with special reference to the national curriculum, assessment, asthma, behaviour, discipline, bullying, child protection, directed time, homework, marking, safety, special needs development

* your mentor's name and his or her role in the school * an academic year diary, if you're lucky, and a whistle.

It is best to agree your job description with the school at the earliest opportunity, allowing you time to understand it. If the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document is mentioned you will be able to read the relevant paragraphs. Having signed your job description you will retain a copy for yourself and though it will be renewed annually it will state that it will not be altered except after discussion with you and joint agreement.

Your ideal mentor will:

* be an excellent practitioner from among the staff, trained to work with you and to talk about professional issues within a climate of complete trust:

* be a close critical friend and source of advice, whom you can tell your problems in confidence, who will answer general queries, and be a sounding board and enable you to continue learning

* give practical help regarding lesson planning and the lessons themselves

* help you to avoid conflict and to manage it when it does occur

* be a beacon to you in the early days, saying things like "Have you remembered ...?" and "It's a good idea if ..."

By the end of your first week you should:

* know about playtime duty arrangements, wet and dry, including the system for dealing with accidents, the location of medical boxes and the accident book, and the name of the staff member trained as a First Aider

* know when it is the turn of your class to use the hall playgroundfield for PEgames and what you should wear

* know what classroom support you can expect from a general assistant, the special needs co-ordinator and voluntary helpers

* be aware about children's specific medical needs, including those with asthma

* know about the radio and television programmes allocated to your class including recording arrangements

* know the routine for staff meetings and the system for receiving dailyweekly updates and the key dates for the term ahead

* know the fire drill

* have relevant keys to your classroom, eg, doors and cupboards.

At various times during your first term your mentor should discuss aspects of basic professional conduct that are not to be confused with your contractual obligations but are about your pride in your work, your integrity and standards. Topics could include:

* discretion regarding what you say and hear

* avoidance of over-familiarity with children and parents; first-name conventions among staff

* not teaching pupils from the school privately (you might be accused of not doing a proper job with them in school)

* not hanging back in the staffroom or being late for lessons and meetings

* not making negative comments to parents about colleagues

* self-awareness as a role model for the children

* keeping out of compromising situations - malicious allegations do happen.

However, despite the best intentions there may be good managerial reasons why your induction is not perfect all the time.Your mentor should be able to help, but if in doubt, always ask.

You are entitled to experience job satisfaction and to have reasonable opportunities from the outset.

Luke Darlington is a retired primary headteacher

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