It shouldn't happen to an NQT

9th January 2004 at 00:00
Newly qualified to qualified status is a big step with many pitfalls. This is Ruth's story, an English teacher living in the West Country, someone the system failed

Term One I started teaching as a newly qualified teacher in autumn 1999 in a school 50 miles from home. I passed the term with very few problems, but it was only a one-term contract, so I went on supply until I could find another post nearer home. After varied supply work and being told at interviews that schools would be happy to employ me but they really would prefer an experienced teacher, I was beginning to despair: would I ever get the chance to complete my NQT year?

Term two I was finally offered another term's contract in the summer term of 2001 - four terms later. The school was very tough and I took over from a successful, experienced teacher whose timetable consisted of teaching groups with special needs and behaviour problems - one class was feared by teachers young and old. On the day I left, my head of department said that my timetable had been "beyond the pale". I informed the school that I was an NQT, but no induction programme was ever carried out and nobody registered me so the term couldn't count.

Term three After the summer break, I got another one-term post teaching two humanities subjects - I'm trained to teach English. Again, I informed them of my NQT status and at first it seemed that my needs were finally being considered - I was observed and included in professional development meetings with other newly qualified teachers in the school. However, they were sent on a course run by the local education authority but I was told that I wouldn't be able to go as the school "wasn't getting any money for me".

I was given no reason to believe that the term might not be passed successfully until my induction tutor came to see me at the end of November. She said that there was a possibility that they may not be able to pass me on the term because of my problems with classroom management. I questioned this, but she was dismissive and generally just skated around the issue. I left at the end of term with no confirmation from the school as to the recommendation. The deputy head in charge of induction had been off sick when the final meeting was to take place, and the induction tutor had broken up early to go on holiday.

Term four I spent spring 2002 teaching English. However, it wasn't until I'd started that I received the induction assessment form from my Term Three school, which stated that I was not making satisfactory progress. To make matters worse, they'd neglected to mention any possibility of this in the telephone reference so I was left in the embarrassing situation of putting my new school in the picture. I think they felt they'd been deceived.

I discovered that my predecessor was not an English specialist. I had to rely on the Year 11s to tell me what they needed to do for GCSE coursework.

None of the staff seemed to have a clue. My induction tutor seemed sympathetic, to some extent, but I generally found the induction arrangements to be sloppy and disorganised.

My head of department chose to play no role whatsoever in my induction, and at no stage observed me. Nor was I observed by the headteacher. An officer from the local education authority visited and said the induction arrangements were acceptable when to me they were clearly unsatisfactory.

The school decided that I was not meeting the standards and so should fail my induction year. But the way the information was communicated to me was that I was disorganised and unprofessional - they didn't actually confirm anything until the following term, leaving me in a terrible state for the holidays.

Luckily, I was given an extension by the authority. However, I have not found another teaching post and have been told I cannot work as a supply teacher while I'm still an NQT because of the four-term limit.

Ruth is now working as an area manager for a sales company

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