Caution: danger ahead
This year, for the first time, newly qualified teachers need to pass an induction year. The standards are demanding and the implications huge: people who don't pass won't be allowed to continue teaching and the grounds for appeal are few - more than 30 days sick leave, for instance. This is very tough. To have such a long absence is rare, but we all know how much one's teaching performance can be affected by flu or a family crisis.
At the end of three terms, teachers who qualified after May 7 1999 have to meet all the standards for QTS again in their new setting. This sounds fairly straightforward but could be very hard. Teaching practices are usually spent in the class of a successful teacher who has already set up the organisational systems that can be so difficult for an NQT to get right. Just organising the furniture is an art in itself.
If meeting the standards for QTS were not enough, there are additional induction standards (see table). Although there are only 10, don't think these will be easy. Each one has several components. For instance, induction standard (a) alone could be broken down into about 10 parts.
The standards appear straightforward. It is only when one studies them in detail and tries to imagine what a good, average and unsatisfactory meeting of them would entail that their complexity becomes apparent. In my experience, people interpret each standard differently. For instance, standard (j) could mean anything from a cursory reading of The TES front page en route to the job pages, to research for a PhD.
Similarly, standard (f) requires NQTs to recognise the level that a pupil is achieving, but does not say on which subjects and targets. At an extreme, some schools may interpret this to mean every child in every part of every subject of the curriculum. Others may settle for a focus on reading and numbers, but this is the framework in which we have to work.
The standards describe a perfect teacher. There is no sense that these are for people at the start of their careers. Terms such as "developing the ability to" are not part of the phraseology. As Professor Colin Richards, chair of the National Primary Teacher Education Conference, and others are saying, the standards for QTS are impossible for any but the most ideal teachers to meet.
Training institutions, of course, have a wealth of knowledgeable staff who can distinguish between a strong and a weak student and, more importantly, have the confidence gained through experience to decide which side of the passfail fence a borderline student should go. The problem with induction is that the interpretation of the standards lies with the headteacher and induction tutor, who may have much less experience in judging what is "good enough". Some schools with very high standards might consider failing an NQT who would be deemed perfectly fine by the school down the road. Also, the standards do not allow for different circumstances. It is much easier to teach in a well-managed schoo with motivated children and staff.
The special educational needs (SEN) standards will be easier to meet in schools with few children on individual education plans or in schools with high-quality SEN co-ordinators.
The standards expect cutting-edge practice, such as target setting, that is simply not yet developed in many schools. Similarly, using ethnic and cultural diversity to enrich the curriculum is in part dependent on resources. How can an NQT be failed for not doing what the teacher in the classroom next door cannot do?
The standards do bring benefits, significantly they provide criteria around which to discuss an individual's teaching. In the past, it has been too easy to judge NQTs by the quality of their control or colour of their classroom displays. Teaching now will be looked at in direct relation to its impact on children's learning.
The most significant bonus is the statutory 10 per cent timetable time for further training and observation of experienced teachers. And the provision of an induction tutor should ensure that they get support and teaching feedback throughout the year.
The Teacher Training Agency recommends a model of observation and feedback at least once every half term. This, though stressful, is useful in highlighting the NQT's strengths and successes as well providing a concrete opportunity for discussing areas for development.
NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS' INDUCTION TARGETS.
In order to meet the induction standards, NQTs should demonstrate that they: (a) set clear targets for improvement of pupils' achievement, monitor progress towards those targets and use appropriate strategies relating to literacy, numeracy and other targets; (b) plan effectively to ensure pupils can meet their potential, notwithstanding differences of race and gender, and taking account of pupils' needs.
(c) secure a good standard of pupil behaviour in the classroom by establishing appropriate rules and expectations of discipline which pupils respect, and re-empt and deal with inappropriate behaviour; (d) plan effectively to meet pupils' special educational needs and, with the SENCO, make an appropriate contribution to the preparation, implementation, monitoring and review of individual education plans; (e) account for ethnic and cultural diversity to enrich the curriculum and raise achievement; (f) recognise and assess pupil achievement against attainment targets and tests relevant to the subject(s) or phase(s) taught; (g) liaise with parentscarers through informative oral and written reports on progress and achievements, and encourage them to support their children's learning, behaviour and progress; (h) deploy support staff and other adults in the classroom, involving them in the planning of pupils' learning; (i) take responsibility for implementing school policies and practices, including those on bullying and racial harassment; (j) take responsibility for their own professional development, setting objectives for improvement, and taking action to keep up to date with research and developments in pedagogy and in the subject(s) they teach.