Induction for career moves

24th November 2006 at 00:00
A leading academic calls for new teachers to have a 'five-year early development programme'

There is a danger past mistakes in teacher probation could be repeated for other teachers if induction is not extended beyond the early years of their career, two of Scotland's foremost teacher educators argue this week.

On the eve of a major international conference on professional development, Jim O'Brien and Janet Draper say all teachers moving to a new post or a new school need induction as part of their continuing professional development.

Too many people moving jobs encounter "laissez-faire induction at best", they say.

In a new book published yesterday, the authors add: "It may be some time before new staff can feel they are fully aware of what is required. It may be even longer before they are confident they can do what is expected."

Dr O'Brien, who is vice-dean of Moray House School of Education, and Ms Draper, from the school of education and lifelong learning at the University of Exeter, said even experienced teachers needed time to adjust to new roles. The CPD entitlement for all teachers should make that easier - "provided the learning needs of new staff are distinguished from the development needs of those who are already established in post".

The authors go on to warn: "There may be, as in the old days of probation, a lack of clarity about what is wanted or needed in the post, leaving the new arrival unsure about how well they are doing. There may be an assumption they will do the job as the previous incumbent did."

In a speech to be given to the International Professional Development Association in Stirling next week, Dr O'Brien, who is its president, will also suggest that good induction, for experienced as well as novice teachers, is critical if people are to stay in the profession. "Attracting teachers is one thing - but you've got to keep them there," he will say.

Dr O'Brien, who has looked at the literature on the subject from a number of countries, will reveal his researches point to five main reasons why teachers quit:

* little or no support;

* given classes who are most difficult to teach;

* inundated with extra-curricular duties;

* placements outside their field of expertise;

* isolation from colleagues.

In his address, he will underline the importance of planning initial induction properly, so everyone benefits. "New teachers need to be given reduced teaching assignments and structured opportunities for collaborative planning, goal-setting and review with mentors. Similarly, mentors require selection, preparation, release time and incentives for helping new teachers."

Dr O'Brien believes new teachers must be prepared for their career in a way that does not just focus on the first year of teaching. This should involve a five-year "early professional development" programme, incorporating postgraduate training, the probationary year and the first three years of teaching.

Despite the improvements he is calling for, he believes there is considerable international interest in Scotland's induction scheme for new teachers: "People from other countries can't believe the investment which the Scottish Executive is putting in, the quality of the training experience and the guarantee of that year's experience."

The executive has committed pound;140 million to the induction programme.

Induction: Fostering Career Development at All Stages, by Janet Draper and Jim O'Brien, is published by Dunedin Academic Press

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