Induction is the key to realising potential

9th February 1996 at 00:00
It is said that starting a new job involves the same level of stress as bereavement, having a child or getting married. How good are schools at helping new colleagues to reduce their stress as they struggle with new systems, the names of pupils and school geography?

One consequence of the loss through early retirement of wise and caring experienced staff is that the new, often cheaper, teachers who replace them have lost their natural allies.

How long did it take you to realise the potential you showed at interview? How much will we add to the learning of pupils if we can help new colleagues achieve their potential within half a term as opposed to two terms? What happens to those teachers who never realise their potential and take their crises home with them? What about those whose quest for perfection leads to stress-related illnesses? We do not know, and no amount of Office for Standards in Education data is really going to tell us.

The loss of several senior teachers and an increase in new staff and trainee teachers led my school to make induction a high priority. Training and support was given to mentors, the roles of team leaders and department heads in induction were clarified, and a structured induction programme was introduced. The key elements were:

* introduction by the headteacher; * managing student behaviour; * the role of the tutor; * using the learning centre; * roles and responsibilities of associated staff; * marking and report writing; * special educational needs; * speech and language difficulties; * personal and social education.

Each session was run by teachers or associate staff for one hour after school. The learning objectives were made public and the leaders of each session provided with support. The evaluation showed how well the programme was received, with high praise for the leaders.

The sessions enabled trainees and newly qualified teachers to mix with senior colleagues. Sharing experience and anxieties in a safe and structured environment is an essential part of induction and complements mentoring.

The trainee teachers returned to their PGCE course enriched by contact with experienced teachers. New colleagues looked forward to the rest of the year. We now have some high quality trainers who have experienced the satisfaction of helping their colleagues and had a valuable professional development experience. Everyone now has the satisfaction of seeing new colleagues looking buoyant and growing in confidence. If that is what nine hours of induction training and effective mentoring does for new staff, then perhaps it is something we all need.

Martin Baxter is professional tutor at Campion School, Northampton

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