A stressful course is coming to an end, and there's a chance to take a breather before plunging into your first term as a newly qualified teacher (NQT). But your head has invited you to spend a few weeks in school before you start in September. You were looking forward to the break - but the chance to get an insight into your new school could prove irresistible.
"It will give me a great opportunity to begin to establish relationships with children and teachers," says Debbie Dickinson, 34, about to start a fortnight's supply teaching at Alderman Richard Hallam Primary in Leicester. "It will be vital in familiarising myself with the day-to-day routines and the ethos of the school."
Joanne Holloway, 24, spent three weeks in the summer at Central Park Primary in Newham, east London, before her NQT year three years ago. The transition from student to teacher was strange, but by the end of the first week she was much more confident.
"The advantage of having those weeks was that I got to know the staff and pupils, and I had a clear idea of what my role in the school was. It took away quite a lot of my worries."
For Julia Scott, 27, who spent three weeks in June and July at Central Park in 2004, there were additional advantages as well as getting to know the class she was going to have the following September. "I was able to familiarise myself with the area and look for accommodation," she says.
"For NQTs who have just finished college, starting early is an opportunity to get to know how the school works," says Emma Laikin, headteacher at Kenmont Primary in Hammersmith, west London. She welcomed NQTs at the end of the summer term. "Without the responsibility of a class, they can spend time in other people's classrooms, and learn the behaviour management strategies."
Catherine Cook, 22, now coming to the end of her induction year at St Mary's School in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, says going into school at the end of the summer term for three weeks helped ease the transition from student to teacher. "It was nerve-wracking to be on my own, without the security of having someone there to pick up the pieces if anything went wrong," she says.
"I also found out the everyday things such as how to use the photocopier and where the store cupboards were."
It also meant she could spend the summer thinking about what she wanted, saving time in September. "I would advise NQTs to make the most of the opportunity to find out everything and to talk to everyone."
Catherine was paid as an unqualified teacher until she graduated, and then the full rate for the rest of term and throughout the holidays, which of course made it doubly worthwhile.
There are possible pitfalls, though. One is that as staff become run down at the end of the school year, you could find yourself covering classes for absent teachers. Being asked to take a class at the last minute can be daunting. If this happens to you, ask for the plans and for someone in the same year group to go through them with you.
It is sensible to keep your path smooth by avoiding conflict and staying out of staffroom politics. This is a time to fit in, not to try to change things. Payment for those few summer weeks varies, depending on what the school can afford or is willing to pay.
Some will pay supply rates, which, at point one on the scale work out at about pound;100 per day, pound;115 in outer London and pound;120 for inner London, but payment does not continue throughout the holidays. NQTs on the unqualified scale start at a rate of pound;18,552 per annum and pound;20,133 on point one of the main scale (pound;23,118 for outer London and pound;24,168 for inner London).
HOW TO DO IT
- Spend lots of time with the classes with whom you will be working. Chat to the children at break times to let them see you are interested in them.
- Ask questions to show you are eager to learn, but don't bombard teachers.
- Get to know the names of as many people as you can, especially the school keeper or caretaker.
- Chat to the teachers who have taught your classes this year and find out what incentives and sanctions work best.
- If asked to cover a class you do not feel confident about, you should do it. You get more kudos for being willing to have a go.