Beyond reason

4th July 2003 at 01:00
A rogue school can make an NQT's life a misery, warns Sara Bubb

Amy got her first teaching job in a primary school. She was appointed well before the end of the summer term, so things should have been in place for her induction year - but they weren't.

"My classroom was in a mobile cabin well away from the main building," she says. "The class was well known for its challenging behaviour. I faced acute discipline problems, especially with one child who had emotional and behavioural difficulties. I had no support. I had to take the children swimming every week even though I told the school I was unqualified and unable to swim. And I was constantly undermined by the learning support assistant.

"The induction tutor didn't know what her role was when I went for advice and support, and turned down my request for a meeting.

"A senior staff member told me not to trust anyone as there were a lot of political undercurrents, and the head branded me unprofessional for calling the union in."

Amy's tale reveals many serious contraventions of induction regulations.

They state that demands should be "reasonable". Amy's job was unreasonable on at least four counts. She was given a notoriously difficult class, with an EBD child. Putting an inexperienced teacher in a hut is clearly madness, as is making her take swimming lessons when she is unqualified and can't swim. Then there's the undermining learning support assistant.

Most schools treat new teachers well. But Amy is not alone in having suffered in a rogue school, those that through poor management or having a head who flouts the regulations fail to provide the statutory induction entitlement. Local authorities know which of their schools fit these descriptions, so why don't they make regular checks on them? Amy's authority said the school was unsuitable for a newly qualified teacher, but its intervention came too late: she had a nervous breakdown and has been off work for more than a year.

Induction has been statutory for four years. If NQTs complain they're called unprofessional, but if they fail induction they're not allowed to teach in the state sector. So what happens to schools that mistreat them? Not a lot. Shouldn't the General Teaching Council have a role? It is time for rogue heads to be held to account.

Teacher Support Line: 08000 562 561

Induction: your rights

As an NQT you are entitled to:

* A 10 per cent lighter timetable than other teachers in the school

* A job that doesn't make unreasonable demands

* Meetings with a school induction tutor including half-termly reviews of progress

* An individually tailored programme of support, monitoring and assessment

* Objectives to help you meet the induction standards

* At least one observation of teaching each half-term with oral and written feedback

* An assessment meeting and report at the end of each term

* Procedures to air grievances at school and LEA levels

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