A year of living enjoyably

20th June 2003 at 01:00
The first one-year induction period for teachers is coming to an end. The pioneers have had their own classes, spent a third of their time on professional development and maintained portfolios of their work throughout. Now they are looking for jobs. Raymond Ross asks four in primary schools and four in secondaries for their verdict on the new probationary system

Julianne White, aged 23 Primary 3 St John's RC Primary, Perth

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my induction year. The support I received from my mentor and my probationer cover has been faultless. I was fortunate because I did have responsibility for the class and, for continuity purposes, I always had the same probationer cover.

"The 30 per cent of continuing professional development became more structured as the year progressed. The time varied from enhanced planning and developing resources to visiting the local secondary school and shadowing pupils for the day. The CPD was most useful at the beginning of the year when trying to establish and familiarise myself with school policies and guidelines.

"The portfolio has been extremely useful when filling in job application forms as it is an excellent record of the courses I attended.

"St John's Primary has an excellent behavioural strategy. As a result the issue of discipline featured very rarely.

"I received a lot of support from my mentor when assessing writing. I found this very beneficial and now feel equipped in this area.

"Report writing was very time-consuming, tiring and stressful, although it did make parents' evening structured.

"I have only recently been applying for jobs and as yet have had no interviews. There appears to be a high standard of qualified professionals and insufficient posts. Unless this problem is addressed, then people like myself may choose alternative careers because of the uncertain future."

Elise Sutherland, aged 24 Primary 123 composite Dirleton Primary, East Lothian

"Luckily, I have landed in a great school where staff and pupils are very supportive and helpful.

"I was involved in decision-making from the very first in-service training day and I have continued to feel as if my opinions and experiences were as valuable as those of staff who have been teaching for years.

"During my first parent consultations it was really nice to have the support of my cover teacher, who calmed my nerves and reassured me about questions and queries parents had. It was also good to have an experienced staff member to discuss reports with in my first year.

"Regular meetings with my mentor have meant that I could discuss issues as they arose and they also gave a chance for feedback and support about what I was doing within the school.

"Having a third of my time out of class has enabled me to become familiar with all our school policies. I have also had the opportunity to visit different schools and I have spent time teaching other classes, which all adds to my teaching experiences.

"Probationer training days organised by the education authority have given me the opportunity to develop new skills and to listen to other professionals discuss their work and ideas.

"Alongside my mentor I have been involved in national testing within the school and have learned a lot about the way in which testing is conducted and the importance of recording and predicting when pupils will sit each level.

"My confidence as a teacher has grown a lot this year. I have interviews, but no job yet."

Sarah Taylor, aged 25 (above) Primary 6; one afternoon a week with P1 Craigton Primary, Glasgow

"Generally, I feel that this has been a successful year in my career, which I attribute to the support I have been given from all the school staff, particularly my mentor. Furthermore, I have experienced the stress and ordeal of an inspection, in which the school excelled.

"The support from the local authority could be much improved.

Some of the professional development content was repeated from our university course. This caused lack of enthusiasm to attend courses. The areas that were not covered at university, such as preparation and delivery of national testing, were not covered in the core CPD modules.

"On the other hand, there has been good communication between the authority and probationers.

"The 30 per cent CPD I undertook was structured and involved a variety of areas, allowing for my development as a teacher. I enjoyed this, particularly as I was responsible for deciding my CPD.

"The portfolio we were asked to keep was beneficial in that it kept me focused on what I hoped to learn this year.

"I am unsure of what will happen to me next year. I have applied to register on the supply list in Glasgow. As yet I have had no success in applying for a permanent post."

Sian Pattenden, aged 28 Primary 5 Granton Primary, Edinburgh

"I have had an excellent induction year. I could not have hoped for it to be any better. The support and advice I received from the staff made all the difference to my year. In particular, the good rapport established with my mentor and my supporting teacher provided an open environment for discussions, meetings and observations to take place.

"The most enjoyable and rewarding part of my year was the relationship built up between myself and the children. The most difficult part, especially at the beginning, was feeling there was so much to do in what seemed so little time.

"I was more than grateful to have the 30 per cent of professional development time, which I used initially to acquaint myself with school policies and resources, planning and preparation. Subsequently, I used the time to shadow other teachers, which was extremely helpful. I was able to evaluate and reflect on my progress and learning.

"The courses arranged by the authority covered many issues and were a good chance to meet up with other probationers.

"Being faced with new challenges, responsibilities and experiences, such as managing discipline, national testing, reports and parents evenings, was hard work yet exciting and I have felt my confidence and knowledge grow over the year.

"I now feel well equipped to be a full-time teacher and am eager and enthusiastic to be one.

"As yet, there have not been any jobs advertised in the local authority area in which I wish to work. While I am preparing for the fact that supply may be the only option, I remain hopeful that I will secure a full-time position in a school."

Victoria Russell, aged 28 Administration and business management, at Standard grade and Intermediate 2 levels, plus as Secondary 2 information technology subjects Alloa Academy, Clackmannanshire

"It has definitely been a year of very mixed emotions: panic and stress in the run up to exams and sheer delight at the excellent performance of pupils in their prelims.

"I have enjoyed being able to get involved in many different aspects of school life, including school trips, a Christmas production and running the tuck shop.

"I experienced very few discipline problems. The school has a very structured discipline policy, which I have used effectively, along with support from my principal teacher and the senior management team.

"It has at times been difficult familiarising myself with all the business education courses, ensuring that pupils completed projects on time and meeting various other deadlines, as I was experiencing everything for the first time.

"At first I felt that having to complete a portfolio would be just another burden to bear. However, now that I have diligently completed it, I realise how useful it is. I have a complete record of my experiences and work over the past year.

"My professional development varied and was supplied by both the school and the local authority.

"I definitely feel equipped to go out and be a full-time teacher but so far have been unable to gain a full-time position. I will keep applying. I am totally committed to teaching and learning and will not give up, even if it does mean doing general supply work next year."

Kenneth Black, aged 28 (above) Religious and moral education, Secondary 1-6 St John's RC High, Dundee

"This year has been very demanding and indeed exhausting at times. It has, however, been a chance to develop skills in a supportive atmosphere and ultimately extremely rewarding.

"Building relationships with my classes has been particularly rewarding, although the pupils' testing of boundaries in the first weeks was trying. I am very proud now of my classes, the work they have produced and the way they have all matured.

"Dundee City Council has invested a lot of time and money in their probationers' professional development programme. It was well structured, with regular input from the authority and peer support by mixing with fellow probationers. There was also time in our CPD allocation to target personally those areas of our practice which needed most development.

"I have a very full portfolio which, although time-consuming, is a testament to the amount of work probationers cover in their first year of teaching.

"Thanks to my experiences of the whole school this year, I now feel ready to take my place as a full-time teacher. The school and my mentor have equipped me to deal with the curriculum, classroom management issues, assessments and reporting to parents.

"I've been offered a job here and look forward to the challenges, grateful for the support I know I will have."

Gail Lugton, aged 23 (above) Music, Secondary 1-4; team teaching S5-S6 Ross High, Tranent, East Lothian

"I have found the induction year a thoroughly enjoyable and positive experience. I feel that throughout this year I have greatly improved in every area of my teaching.

"The best part has been the support I have received, mainly from my individual supporter and within the school but also from the authority.

"I have been mostly responsible for all of the classes that I have taught.

I team-taught the Higher class with my supporter and I shared an S4 Standard grade class. I feel that this worked extremely well as I was being allowed to gain experience of teaching at these levels. I was totally responsible for my S1, S2 and S3 classes.

"The 30 per cent professional development time within the school was very well structured. I had a weekly meeting with my supporter, which I found extremely useful. We also had weekly probationer meetings, classroom observations and meetings with various members of staff, such as guidance.

"I feel that I now have a very useful portfolio of work. I have been involved in various activities both in and out of school, such as working parties and committees.

"At the start, I found discipline quite hard to get to grips with. I now feel very confident in this.

"I feel fully equipped to be a full-time teacher. I have applied for three jobs and have an interview."

Claudine Bellegarde-Deakin, mature trainee French, Secondary 1, S2, S4, Intermediate 2 Grange Academy, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire

"It was a challenging, daunting but very exciting year. Thanks to having an S3 register class, I was quickly able to get to know a group of pupils with whom I would be working daily.

"I have enjoyed this year immensely. Teaching has been the part I enjoyed most, along with a sense of belonging and the good relationships I built up with my classes.

"My colleagues made me feel part of the team from day one. Having my own classes made teaching life easier. Sharing a very difficult S4 with an experienced member of staff helped me a lot, allowing me to get familiar with the curriculum more quickly. I also felt well supported, especially in implementing the discipline policy.

"Throughout the year, I benefited from meetings with the authority and with the school mentor, which focused on areas such as discipline and whole school issues.

"Departmentally, I had the opportunity to discuss planning, preparing and getting familiar with the department resources. As it got easier, I used the 30 per cent professional development time developing my knowledge of information technology until I could train my colleagues on the new interactive whiteboards.

"It has been a challenging and very satisfying year, made much easier by the support I have had from my principal teacher, my department, the senior management team and the rest of the staff.

"I certainly feel equipped now to be a full-time teacher. Unfortunately, I have no job yet for next August but I am already on a supply list."

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