Budget threat for new teachers;Briefing;Analysis

17th September 1999 at 01:00
The new teaching induction year offers more support and a reduced timetable. But, asks Elaine Williams, do schools have the cash to make it work?

NEWLY QUALIFIED teachers beware - those who fail their induction will be given no second chances.

Unlike the probationary years in the past - often a formality - if new teachers do not perform satisfactorily in their first, induction year, they will not be able to register with the General Teaching Council. They will then not be able to teach in mainstream and special schools and their Qualified Teacher Status will not be worth the paper it is written on.

What new teachers will get is a reduced timetable to allow for support and training. A laudable move, but heads are already saying that the budget to support this is woefully inadequate. Their claims are backed by a TES survey, which has revealed wild differences in local authority funding for new teachers.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers received more calls about induction before the summer holidays than any other issue. Many of the calls were from newly qualified teachers who said that their training colleges had failed to provide the necessary information. They also complained that schools where they had been interviewed had failed to mention induction requirements.

Present induction differs from past probation in that the Government has built in clear and fairly rigorous support for the new teachers as well as assessment. Probationary years were haphazard affairs. Few authorities used them for what they were intended: to weed out poor performers. Tales of probationers struggling with inappropriate classes and workloads are legion. The purpose of induction is to do away with this sink-or-swim tradition once and for all.

New teachers have been given a 10 per cent reduction in their timetable to allow for support and training. They will be formally assessed on three occasions in the year and their work has to be monitored and reviewed day-to-day by a tutor or mentor, normally a senior teacher. They will be actively involved in planning their own induction which must be shaped to their particular strengths and weaknesses.

If new teachers are unhappy with their induction, they must raise concerns as early as possible with the school and, if it fails to respond adequately, with the local education authority. If they fail induction they face certain dismissal, though they do have a right of appeal

Headteachers have a duty to ensure that induction is suitable, that new teachers are not given unreasonable workloads and must ultimately recommend pass or failure. Local authorities are responsible for the quality assurance of induction and must give support and guidance.

All this shows a Government determined to sharpen teaching practices. The Department for Education and Employment believes it is crucial and in the interests of children that new teachers get the support and training to address weaknesses early in their careers, rather than having to undergo the more painful business of competency proceedings later on.

The teaching unions have been calling for a formalised induction system for years and more stridently since the Conservative government abolished the probationary year in 1992 in favour of appraisal. Headteachers welcome it.

Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research, Liverpool University, believes that the graduates themselves will welcome what is now a rigorous two-year training programme. He believes induction could draw more people into teaching in the long-term by adding value to the profession and also help reduce drop-out rates (less than half of new teachers are still in teaching after five years). He says it will make the newly qualified feel more valued and secure in their first few weeks and months. Often, he said, new teachers have felt "cast adrift" in schools.

But there are storm clouds gathering, the largest and blackest of these concerning finance.

The DFEE seems unaware that the money following new teachers into school differs radically from authority to authority. A sample of LEAs contacted by The TES, revealed an annual sum of pound;3,150 per new teacher being awarded by Bradford, compared to just pound;1,400 by Leicester.

The TES also asked a number of authorities how much was specifically being allocated for supply cover. Figures quoted ranged from pound;360 per new teacher for Bexley, Greater London, to pound;2,000 for Barnsley.

Although the Government has allocated money for induction through the Standards Fund, it has been distributed to local authorities as part of the School Improvement Grant which, for the first time, is having to cover the funding of key stage tests and general national vocational qualification pilots.

This grant was distributed to schools last April, long before authorities had any idea of the number of new teachers they would have and a full two months before the Government issued its circular laying out the details of its induction programme.

Some councils held money back for induction, but it is only now that heads are being told by their councils how much money they should be spending per new teacher.

Simon Prynne, headteacher of Jubilee primary school, Bexley, has had to take on five new teachers this September as, out of the five vacancies advertised last year, his 350-pupil-school received not one application from an experienced teacher. He said: "That pound;360 will not buy me cover beyond the end of October." Mr Prynne is further concerned that he will have difficulty in any case in obtaining supply cover given the greater demands induction will place on supply.

Freda Hussein, headteacher of Moat Hill community college, Leicester, who has taken on three new teachers, believes the pound;1,400 she has been allocated is "woefully inadequate to fund time out for either new teachers or senior staff who will have to undertake additional monitoring, assessment and administration".

She said: "I think it is a good thing to develop teachers but I wish someone would work out the costs of implementing good ideas like this."

There is great potential for chaos. Heads are concerned that teachers who fail may have strong grounds for appeal if it can be proved that their induction was not adequately funded. They also believe that the "no second chance" stipulation will create undue pressures on both sides. Jeff Holman, assistant secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, believes the formality of the system could spark off a host of difficult employment relations and that this, combined with budgetary concerns, may make schools shy away from employing new teachers. They will certainly no longer be a cheap option.

Sixth-form colleges, on the other hand, are complaining that new teachers cannot come to them, other than as part of an arrangement with a secondary school. Colleges have long had recruitment difficulties given that pay and conditions for staff have worsened in comparison to secondary teachers, and have often relied on new teachers applying for jobs. Now that has also been taken away they foresee serious recruitment shortages.

Supply agencies on the other hand believe they will be winners. Given the all-or-nothing nature of induction, agencies believe newly qualified teachers will opt for a few terms of supply, to gain experience in more casual circumstances, before embarking on induction.

Above all, however, the National Employers Organisation hopes that induction will put an end to the "disgraceful" practice of schools only offering new teachers temporary contracts.

Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, said the practice, which had debarred young teachers from obtaining bank loans and mortgages, only exacerbated recruitment difficulties. Now schools had been given the power to dismiss weak teachers after one year there was no excuse for temporary contracts. He said: `We are taking a very tough line on this. We welcome induction and are writing to authorities pressing for an end to this practice."

The new teaching induction year

offers more support and a reduced

timetable. But, asks

Elaine Williams, do schools have the cash to make it work?

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