As the latest band of qualifying teachers to enter the job hunt, you are joining increasing numbers of graduates struggling to find their first full-time teaching position, with many schools forced to cut back or close their doors to NQTs.
Research conducted by the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) shows that 52 per cent of the 33,350 NQTs who finished training in 2009 had not yet started their induction by the end of March 2010. Last year, the figure stood at just 20 per cent. The picture is even worse is Scotland, with the General Teaching Council for Scotland revealing that only 16 per cent of teachers who qualified this summer has secured a full-time permanent position, compared to 64 per cent five years ago.
Karan Katwala, who completed her induction earlier this year, attended three interviews before realising how competitive entry into the profession had become. "It was incredibly tough," she says. "Many of my friends were contemplating supply work or signing up to an agency to help them find a job. As you go for the first round of interviews, you begin to notice that you are up against your fellow trainees - particularly tough when they have already done a placement at the school."
For those who do not manage to get a permanent post after qualifying, fixed-term positions or supply teaching can act as a springboard for permanent positions. "Making an effort in the staffroom and showing a keen interest can definitely lead to a full-time position," suggests Ms Katwala. "Those supply teachers who seem disengaged are remembered by staff for all the wrong reasons. Your end game should certainly be to gain a full-time position - the induction period is crucial to your future."
Indeed, the induction period can make or break a young teacher's professional development. Most schools will ensure new teachers are well taken care of, as successful NQT induction links with many other priorities in the school. However, a lack of support can lead to a skewed view of teaching, which can result in young practitioners leaving the profession.
"There is no such thing as a standard induction programme, because induction is unique to each new teacher," advises a spokeswoman for the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). "But it will include working with and observing other teachers in action, visiting other schools and formal training. It is crucial that new teachers make the best of this."
During a standard induction period, new teachers will be working a 90 per cent timetable, as well as fulfilling all the pastoral duties that come with a full-time teaching position. To ensure a smooth transition from the 50 per cent timetable that NQTs are accustomed to from work placements, a tailored programme of support is needed to integrate the demands of both the pastoral and academic requirements of the job.
"I would advise new teachers to build a solid relationship with their induction tutor," says Ms Katwala. "Do not be too hard on yourself if you didn't get a chance to ring a parent, or you're behind on marking - there are loads of sources of support out there and it's important to take advantage of them."
A vital part of induction is developing a good relationship with your induction tutor. Induction tutors have several responsibilities, including monitoring, supporting and assessing new teachers joining their school. Responsibilities will vary from school to school: at secondary level, the induction tutor may be the NQT's head of department; at primary level, the role may be filled either by the deputy headteacher or a phase co-ordinator. At an independent school, there may not be a designated induction tutor.
"Your tutor should work with you to review progress against your objectives and the core standards, as well as ensuring you are fully informed about assessment in the induction period," says induction veteran Paul Nials, of Portsmouth Grammar School. "But it is equally important to be able to approach your tutor and consult them about any problems."
Another important aspect of induction is the career entry and development profile, which is drawn up with a student's tutors at university and added to throughout the induction period. It allows a new teacher to reflect on their progress and to identify areas in need of development.
It also gives a point of reference to an NQT's support network at a new school and should be used in conjunction with the school's induction programme. Not only does it give the NQT's induction tutor a way to identify strengths, achievements and objectives, but it also ensures the NQT will continue to be self-critical throughout their career.
Following her induction period, Ms Katwala become much more confident in her skills as a teacher. "I'm comfortable in my role and, instead of worrying constantly, I am able to enjoy the company of the children," she says. "The most important lesson I learnt was that it is impossible to get everything done - don't be too proud to ask for help!"
INDUCTION AT ISC SCHOOLS
Newly qualified teachers applying for jobs in the independent sector often worry about not receiving a Government-approved induction. Others worry that a transfer to the maintained sector later in their career will be harder to achieve.
Many new teachers do not know the Government has authorised the Independent Schools Council Teaching Induction Panel (ISCtip) to provide the statutory functions necessary for the induction of NQTs.
"The general criteria for completing induction in an independent school are that the school must follow the national curriculum and that the post will allow the NQT to meet the core standards," says ISC induction supervisor Wendy Sutton-Miller. "Each term we offer our NQTs additional training - help and advice on topics such as classroom management, relationships with parents, differentiation and body language."
ISC schools must follow the same process as the maintained sector: a 10 per cent reduction in timetable, a certain number of lesson observations and regular reviews and assessments.
The ISC, which represents 1,260 independent schools educating more than 500,000 children in the UK, ensures its schools follow the statutory process and offers advice on how to make the induction year valuable to the NQT. "We are rigorous in our checking of assessment forms each term and offer an extensive 'handbook' for our schools," says Ms Sutton-Miller. "We aim for our schools to offer quality, not just compliance with the minimum requirements."