Beyond the classroom

8th January 1999 at 00:00
Most teachers hold extra essential responsibilities within the school and learning who's who will prove invaluable,says Michael Duffy

Starting your first teaching job is not unlike that long- forgotten first day at school as a pupil. One of the difficulties you face, certainly in a secondary school, is the bewildering number of your fellow teachers - and the complexity of their jobs and titles. Almost everybody, you will find, has an extra role over and above their classroom teaching.

In some ways, history is to blame. For 50 years, teachers' promotion has been linked to posts of special responsibility, so it's not surprising that such jobs have multiplied. But as you will soon discover, schools are very complex institutions. There are dozens of responsibilities outside the classroom that have a vital effect on what goes on within it.

That's partly because good schools work in teams. As a newly qualified teacher you will be a member of some of them: a subject or faculty team, a form or house tutor team, perhaps a whole-school planning team.

Each team has a job to do, not least in helping you. Those team leaders have a key role to play in your induction year. So, of course, does your subject mentor, who in many schools will be responsible in turn to a teacher charged with co-ordinating staff professional development. That is a major management role. It is not just new teachers, remember, who need additional training. Good schools are places where everybody is learning - not just the pupils.

Four specific posts are required by law. That of the special educational needs co-ordinator - SENCO for short - impacts directly on every teacher in the school, and in its advisory capacity is particularly important for new teachers.

You may not at first be so aware of the significance of the head of careers and guidance - but you will soon discover that, like pastoral care, good teaching in any subject raises real issues about your pupils' future choices. Indeed, you may well find that as a form tutor you are required to contribute to an explicit guidance programme. The careers teacher of the past has become a careers team leader.

The third required post is that of "named person" under the terms of child protection law. If you suspect child abuse or hear it reported to you it is to this colleague that you and your team leader should immediately go.

Fourth, there has to be a health and safety officer.

Next, there is a category of posts that though not required are almost universal. They include examinations officer (in large schools the budget for examination entries often matches the whole budget for teaching materials and resources) and - very important for new teachers - the co-ordinator for information and communications technology or network manager.

Your school may have a resources manager too, on the basis that it makes more sense to pool expensive items of equipment than to have individual subjects scraping and hoarding for their own. And it may also have an assessment co-ordinator, charged with maintaining accurate records and progress indicators.

Not all the people holding these last-named posts will be teachers. Since schools have been given responsibility for their own budgets, they have been quick to realise there is a pool of excellent managers and administrators willing to work school hours for significantly less than an experienced teacher's pay. On the same basis, it won't take you long to discover that some of your most important colleagues are those who make teaching possible, but don't teach themselves. Never underestimate the contribution of the caretaker or site manager, or the finance manager, or the secretaries, technicians and assistants. Schools can't work without them.

And then, of course, there is the senior management team. Cynics in the staffroom will tell you that they neither teach nor make teaching possible. Neither assertion, of course, is true: but all the same, a good staff handbook will spell out for everybody just how the roles are shared and, importantly, which of the team can help you with the problems and uncertainties that will inevitably arise and the encouragement you will surely need. It is essential reading A key function of the management team is to pull all the roles together so that everybody works to make the school a better place to learn and teach in. "Central management" is often a better term for this than the more usual hierarchical label.

Two final pieces of advice. First, don't ever underestimate "pastoral care". The days when it was just a synonym for dealing with difficult adolescents are gone. Pastoral care is about things that help children become better learners. It is absolutely central to the job you have trained for and that you will very soon be starting.

And second, don't ever assume that because a colleague has "responsibility" in their title, the responsibility is exclusively theirs.

It is a role, not a task - and it has to do, always, with supporting teachers in their teaching and learners in their learning. By definition, it is there to be shared, and you are included in that.

Michael Duffy was formerly head of King Edward VI School, Morpeth, Northumberland

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