Induction: the road to becoming a class act
The real-life experience of working at the chalkface may be the most valuable and rewarding training a teacher will get. But, for new teachers seeking to establish their confidence and competence quickly, the transition from formal training to class teacher can be a traumatic experience.
Induction can, more than anything before, sharpen a teacher's perspective of his or her chosen career and give an early insight into what he or she must achieve.
But induction and monitoring arrangements still vary tremendously from school to school, which is one reason why a statutory induction year was introduced for all newly qualified teachers (NQTs) from the start of this school year. Under these arrangements, any NQT who has taken up his or her first teaching post this term should by now have begun the induction process.
For all would-be teachers, it is this year that will finally determine whether you will be eligible to continue in the profession. At the end of it, you must be able to show you can meet the official standards for qualified teacher status.
Should you fail, there are no second chances. It is, therefore, essential that you know what should be happening and what to do if support is not forthcoming.
Induction has a series of distinctive features. To start with, the period must last for one school year or pro-rata for part-time teachers.
All NQTs should have a working timetable equivalent to 90 per cent of a full teaching load (pro-rata for part-timers). This allows time for appropriate induction.
You should also have three formal assessment meetings spread evenly throughout the year.
If you have reason to miss more than an aggregate total of 30 days, the induction period will be extended by the number of days missed.
Once you have completed your induction period, your headteacher must recommend to your appropriate body (usually the local authority) within 10 working days whether you should pass or fail. You should be informed (in writing) within three working days of their final decision.
Successful NQTs may then continue their career. Unsuccessful candidates may appeal against the decision within 20 working days of receiving notification.
The appeal procedure is set out in annex D of the Department for Education and Employment circular 599 (The Induction Period for Newly Qualified Teachers). It is essential, if you are deemed to have failed, that you seek advice from your union on how to proceed.
Although each NQT must be provided with the appropriate induction, responsibility for this rests with all the parties involved: you, your headteacher, your induction tutor, your governing body and the LEA. If this partnership is successful, there really is very little (if any) chance of failing.
Newly-qualified teachers have three main responsibilities: 1. You must make the career entry profile (CEP) you should have completed at college available to your head and induction tutor so that it can be used as the basis for your induction.
2. You should take an active role in the planning of your induction. What gaps are there in your knowledge? What do you need support with? How can you best continue the progress made during your training?
3. Any concerns you have about your induction must be raised through the appropriate channels as soon as they arise.
Your headteacher must:
1. Ensure that your induction is tailored to your needs - that is, it is individualised. If this is not possible, he or she must arrange experience for you in a different school.
2. Oversee all aspects of your support, mentoring and assessment.
3. Ensure that you are teaching the age range and subject you have been trained for to classes that don't present severe discipline challenges.
4. Recommend whether you should be deemed to have passed or failed your induction period.
Your induction tutor's responsibilities are to:
1. Devise a suitable programme of induction that is not only individualised, but also allows for a fair assessment of your skills as a teacher.
2. Monitor and support you daily as necessary.
3. Formally assess you at regular intervals, making fair and rigorous judgments.
4. Make recommendations to your headteacher on the outcome of your induction period.
The backdrop to all of this is provided by your "appropriate body" (usually the LEA) and your governing body who, between them, must take overall responsibility for the quality of your training and supervision during this period. If, at any stage, you are at risk of failing, they must provide additional support from personnel who are in a position to perform their duties to the highest standards.
For your induction period to be effective, you will need to work at developing a true partnership with your induction tutor. These ideas may be useful:
* Attend all the induction sessions you are offered.
* Become familiar with all the standards.
* Be sensitive to the time constraints your induction tutor may be facing. Get to know other members of staff so that they too can be a source of support.
* Express your needs openly and honestly.
* Be fully involved in setting your targets. Don't neglect pro-action in favour of reaction.
* Do regular evaluations of your work and progress.
* Ask for clarification of anything you don't understand.
* Actively integrate what you learn into your daily work.
* Be aware of how your relationship with your induction tutor can develop over time in response to your changing needs.
You should have three formal assessment meetings during your induction period and, with regular discussions, meetings and reviews of progress, you should not be surprised by any conclusions that are drawn about your performance. Be sure to keep copies of all reports made on your progress.
The first formal meeting will probably focus on how consistently you are attaining the standards for qualified teacher status and moving towards achieving the induction standards. The second meeting will look at how well you achieve the induction standards.
The third and final meeting is the real decider. For most NQTs, this is when you will be told the recommendation is that you should pass. If this is the case, the meeting may also be used to discuss your developmental needs for the next academic year.
At the many less formal meetings, targets will be set and reviewed and current issues discussed. These should be held frequently throughout the year and especially after your teaching is formally observed. Use your discussions with your induction tutor to define further your philosophies of teaching.
As soon as you become concerned about any aspect of your induction, it is essential that you do something. Your school must have in place an internal procedure. Your induction tutor should have informed you about this by now. This should make it clear how NQTs should raise issues that concern them. Follow this procedure first.
If this doesn't solve the problem, take them up with the person responsible for dealing with NQTs' concerns at your LEA. You should also contact your union for advice at this point.
Be sure to document all your communications and the reasons for them for future reference, should you need to appeal against the final decision.
In the unlikely event that you are deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress during your induction period, you should be told as soon as possible. Individual weaknesses must be fully identified, with a structured plan of support to help you back on track.
A third party, usually your headteacher, will need to observe your teaching and give you a written report on exactly what needs to improve for you to be successful. Be sure to take any advice from your school or local authority and your union if you are ever deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress, and work with your school and induction tutor to bring about improvements in your performance.
A copy of the circular 599 -The Induction Period for Newly Qualified Teachers - is available from the DFEE publication order line on 0845 6022260, or from the DFEE website, www.dfee.gov.ukThe Teacher Training Agency will be producing a series of four booklets that will support the induction period. These will be available from the TTA mailing house on 0845 6060323, or from the TTA website, www.teach-tta.gov.uk Elizabeth Holmes is author of The Handbook for NQTs (review page 26)
YOUR CAREER ENTRY PROFILE
Your career entry profile is central to planning your induction period. Focusing on your existing skills and agreed targets for professional development is a way of linking your training with your first job, as well as highlighting your competence in relation to both sets of standards.
It can also help your school deploy you in the most appropriate way. Rather than being an end in itself, the CEP is very much part of the process of your induction.
Maximising the use of the CEP
* The CEP contains evidence of the progress you have made by pulling the threads of your training through to your employment setting. It isn't set in stone - adapt it to take account of the changes in your skills and needs as a result of your first few months in the job.
* Don't just think of immediate concerns - consider long- and medium-term goals too.
* Think of the processes by which you will achieve desired outcomes. What do you need? How will you get it? Don't let it become forgotten as the challenges of each day threaten to preoccupy you.
* Use it to establish sound reflective practices - essential for effective professional development. You'll create habits of value in a future in which the successful completion of your induction period is a significant start.
INDUCTION: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
* What happens if I'm not given a career entry profile? Your training institution should have issued you with one. Blank copies can be ordered from the TTA or downloaded from its website (see left), but it is important that you request one from your tutor. It is central to the targeting and planning processes of your induction - so don't miss out!
* Where can I get copies of the induction standards and the standards for qualified teacher status? Try the DFEE or TTA publication order lines, or downloaded from the DFEE or TTA websites. It is important to have your own copies, as your ability consistently to satisfy the standards will be at the centre of your assessment. Use them to help you focus on the areas you want to develop.
* Does it matter that my school has yet to set up an induction programme? Absolutely! If this is so, you must talk immediately to your head and appropriate body, as well as getting advice from your union. Don't let another week go by without expressing your concerns. Your future is at stake.
* My induction tutor is also my headteacher. Is this OK? This is unavoidable in some very small schools. It needn't be a problem as long as a third party is involved in formal assessment meetings. If this becomes an issue, raise your concerns through the appropriate channels. Your union representative will be able to advise too.
* What if I don't get on with my induction tutor? It is essential that both parties work at developing a relationship which encourages effective mentoring and assessment. If, after considerable effort on both sides, this isn't possible, it may be necessary to change your tutor - your head is the main person to decide this.
* My induction tutor does not seem to have time to talk to me. Is there anything I should do? It is not enough to have an induction tutor who is best qualified to support you through this all-important year. They have to be supported in their work, and that means having the time to devote to you without squeezing their other responsibilities. A stressed or unskilled mentor is as good as useless. Raise your concerns with your head or appropriate body.
* What happens if I need maternity leave during my induction? You may ask for it to be extended by the amount of time lost to maternity leave. This is not compulsory, but may be useful, depending on how much of the induction you completed.