Avoid a 'haze' in your early days

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Have you heard of "hazing"? It's the term that describes the ghastly initiation rites which American street gangs make their new members perform to prove their worth. So, what have these got to do with education?

Controversially, Mary Patterson, who works in California, uses "hazing" to describe how some new teachers are put into the least survivable situations. Newly qualified teachers in the UK are protected by law, but there is still a sink-or-swim culture in some schools in which new staff are set impossible challenges.

The best resources, classrooms, even parking spaces are reserved for time-served staff. If newcomers complain, they are seen as "unprofessional". If they survive, they are "real" teachers.

Such cultures are self-perpetuating. As one newcomer on the TES online staffroom forum wrote: "Schools can be dog-eat-dog. Established teachers take the best resources, the best classrooms, the best classes so that they can get by. NQTs get the crap. Once these guys leave, the NQTs become the established ones, and so it goes onI" Newcomers often work in tough schools. By definition most vacancies will be in places with a high staff turnover, and which experienced teachers will shy away from. I've heard of new teachers being hit and threatened by pupils - and little is done to help them. Some schools employ more NQTs than they can support. In some schools, a third of staff are newly qualified, another third have had fewer than five years in the job and the other third are near retirement.

Such places don't have the resources to give adequate support to NQTs, so they should get help from outside. There is no excuse for newcomers being given the classes that nobody else wanted, in the least desirable rooms with the teaching assistants from hell. NQTs should not be overly burdened with responsibility. In effect, some find themselves heads of department since they are the only teacher of a subject. Then there's a maths teacher who has to teach PE without even the most basic training in safety.

"Hazing" should not happen to NQTs. If you're not being treated right, speak up and get help from your local authority.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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