Dear Ted

28th November 2003 at 00:00
I'm a secondary NQT and I have only four free lessons a week - one more than the main staff. I have no mentor and there is no induction programme. What can I do?

Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

Ted says

This simply will not do. Your school has an obligation to support you during this initial phase of your career; it is not an optional extra. New teachers are taking on a difficult job, so leaving them to flounder is neglectful. If something went wrong, the senior staff would be in deep trouble, whether they are hard-pressed or not.

Although you may at present be a few years away from eligibility to pass through the threshold and progress to the upper pay scale, you are still supposed to be an important part of the school's performance management system, which seems not to exist if what you say is true. You should have been given a team leader, presumably your head of department, who should be helping you set objectives, watching you teach and generally making sure you are competent and fully supported.

I often talk with groups of newly qualified teachers and the picture is varied. You would be very envious indeed if you heard of the support that some NQTs receive, but others tell a similar story to your own. Fix a time to discuss the problem with the person responsible for staff matters and professional development in the school. It may be a deputy head or other senior teacher.

Make sure your head of department knows that you are not just lodging a complaint, but trying to help both of you. You could ask him or her to do this, but you may as well learn to stick up for yourself early in your career. Try to think of positive suggestions. NQTs are often given the opportunity to visit another school, or meet with others in the region, something the local authority could be helping the school with.

You say

Target a teacher yourself

Explain to your head of department that you intend to discuss how your experience relates to national requirements with the member of the senior leadership team with responsibility for continuing professional development.

When the head signs your first term's assessment form, he or she is required to confirm that you have an individual induction programme. When you countersign, having contributed to your assessment, you are invited to comment. What will you write?

Look around your staffroom and listen to how colleagues talk about their work, and young people. Then target someone who you feel you could learn with and ask them to consider being your induction tutor. Or you could resign and seek a post in a school where CPD is taken seriously; you only have one chance to be a first-year teacher.

Before you do, have a look at the Teacher Training Agency website (www.canteach. to be clear about your entitlement and the school's responsibilities. Perhaps they think you're OK and don't need much of their time, which totally misses the point of high-quality induction.

Oh, and ask the manager of your local McDonald's in to show your head how they manage staff induction. Also ask him to bring some milk shakes for the leadership team and a chicken burger with stress-free mayonnaise for your head of department.

Clive Carroll, education development unit, St Martin's College, Ambleside

Put your case to the key players

The first thing to do is to make sure your support and training is top of everyone's agenda. Talk with the key players, starting with your head of department and the teacher responsible for performance management. You want to keep these people on board and to know that your support is in their interests. Be well prepared. Get the tone right but leave them in no doubt as to where you stand.

Talk it through first with a colleague friend, and then do it. If you're still no better off, then your headteacher needs, and most likely would want, to know. But if it reaches that stage you will probably need a champion. It might be another senior member of staff, your area professional association rep or, in the last resort, your local authority's manager for newly qualified teachers. And start today!

Anonymous, email

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today