Choosing the way forward
As a newly qualified art teacher, Abby Harrison was keen to work with older students because of her "skills and interests" and so applied to a local sixth-form college. Unfortunately she didn't get the job, but because the successful candidate was unable to start immediately, she was offered a term's employment.
In the past, taking a job in further education could mean putting the NQT induction year on hold. Now, with the introduction of new Government regulations in September 2008, FE institutions have the framework to provide NQTs with the same mentoring, support and training as a school.
Ms Harrison's term at Bede Sixth-Form College in Stockton-on-Tees gave her a head start and, although she is now completing the final two terms of her NQT year at a secondary school, she eventually hopes for a career in FE.
"I get more job satisfaction from teaching students who have chosen the subject rather than disinterested Year 9 pupils who keep asking why they have to do an hour's art a week when they aren't doing it for exams."
At the moment, though, she is enjoying her new secondary school job and is reluctant to limit her options. The new regulations offering NQTs a comparable induction year in FE go some way to bridging the gap between schools and the non-compulsory lifelong learning sector.
Dr Jean Kelly, executive director for professional development at the Institute for Learning (IfL), the FE teachers' professional body, says the new regulations offer "a chance to stop teachers being pigeon-holed and open up career opportunities as the cross over between FE and schools becomes more attractive".
Around 15,000 new teachers enter the lifelong learning sector annually, but only a minority are NQTs. Many come from business or industry and are often older. There are some full-time FE teacher training courses, but study is usually part-time and "in-service" with a period of "professional formation" leading to QTLS (qualified teacher learning and skills).
Now, with the vocational diplomas for 14- to 19-year-olds, schools may need FE teachers but often fail to recognise QTLS, paying them as instructors or unqualified staff. There are concerns that some issues more relevant to schools, such as behaviour, need addressing.
The 2008 regulations state that NQTs in FE must spend at least 10 days teaching in a school, supplemented by an additional 15 days if possible. This can be difficult to arrange because of different academic timetables, while, to accommodate variation in terms, the regulations specify a 189- day induction period - proportionally longer if the NQT is part-time.
An "appropriate body", usually from the local authority, has to be appointed to oversee arrangements, maintain standards and address any concerns. Clifton Bingham, who manages Stockton's graduate training programme, is the "appropriate body" for local colleges but is responsible for only two or three NQTs a year in FE, compared to 150 or more in schools.
He says it is important for NQTs in colleges to "maintain links into mainstream schools for their own professional benefit . it is easy to become isolated and there should be lots of learning conversations".
Miriam Stanton, head of Bede Sixth-Form, works with local schools and is proud of the college's NQT provision. "We provide NQT induction because we want the best teachers and, in some shortage subjects like science or ICT, the NQT may be the best candidate," she says.
However, she warns against going into FE just to escape difficulties in schools, such as behaviour problems. "As an NQT, it's a huge challenge to get through an induction year and teach AS and A-level as well - that person has to be exceptional and have a passion for their subject."
A timetable reduced by at least 10 per cent is mandatory to help NQTs through their induction year, which includes regular, often weekly, meetings with a mentor. ICT teacher Peter Lumley started his induction year in a Durham school before getting a job at Stockton Riverside College. Comparing the two NQT programmes, he feels the college expects more personal responsibility for development, setting targets and organising classroom observations, rather than telling him "what needs to be done".
At 39, with a background in computer programming, he feels better equipped for the FE sector than many "fresh out of school and college" NQTs. "I can draw on my experience both for my students and myself - FE is more about real life."
In the real world of pressurised timetables and limited budgets, FE institutions need to have good reasons to develop an NQT programme. At Stockton Riverside, principal Sujinder Sangha says: "Our underlying motivation is the college's sponsorship of two new local academies, which creates the need for flexibility in staffing and teaching between the college and the schools."
For people such as PE teacher Andy Wilkinson, who is completing his NQT year at a sixth-form college, it means more career options. "If things don't work out in FE - particularly during this time of recession - I need to be able to look for a job wherever I can."
For more information
Institute for Learning: www.ifl.ac.ukcpdqtls-atls
NQT regulations explained: http:bit.lyTDAinduction, http:bit.lyTDAinductguide
Lifelong Learning UK: www.lluk.orgias.htm.