Mission impossible?

12th January 2001 at 00:00
The 11 induction standards describe a perfect teacher - but, says Sara Bubb, they make little allowance for the reality of the classroom.

Newly-qualified teachers need to achieve a list of standards at the end of their first year. These are demanding, and the implications of not meeting them are huge: people who don't pass won't be allowed to continue teaching. The grounds for appeal are few - you have to have had more than 30 days' sick leave, for instance. The good news is that only a few people nationally didn't meet them last year.

At the end of three terms, you have to meet all the standards for qualified teacher status (QTS) again in your new setting. This sounds straightforward but can be very hard. You usually spend your teaching practices in the class of a successful teacher who has already set up the organisational systems that can be so difficult for an NQT to get right.

If meeting the standards for QTS were not enough, there are extra induction standards. Although there are only 11 of them (see below), don't be deceived into thinking they will be easy. Each has several components. For instance, induction standard (a) alone could be broken down into about 10 parts. They appear straightforward - their complexity only becomes apparent when you study them in detail and try to imagine what a good, average and unsatisfactory meeting of them would entail. In my experience people interpret each standard differently, with resulting unfairness.

For instance, standard (j) could mean anything from an occasional cursory reading of the front page of The TES en route to the job pages, to doing research for a PhD. Similarly, standard (f) requires NQTs to "recognise the level that a pupil is achieving" but does not say in which subjects and attainment targets this should be. At an extreme, some primary schools may interpret this as levelling every child in every part of every subject of the curriculum. Others may settle for a focus on reading and number.

Perhaps the most worrying thing about the standards is that they describe a perfect teacher. There is no sense that they are for people at the start of their careers. Terms such as "developing the ability to" or "beginning to" are not part of the phraseology, and the interpretation of the standards lies with the headteacher and induction tutor. Thus, some schools with very high standards might consider failing an NQT who would be deemed fine by the school down the road. Another problem is that there is no allowance for the circumstances in which these standards are being met. It is much easier to teach in a well-managed school with motivated children and successful staff.

The standards expect cutting-edge practice, such as target setting, that are not yet developed in many schools. Similarly, using ethnic and cultural diversity to enrich the curriculum is in part dependent on resources and practice within the school. How can an NQT be failed for not doing what the teacher in the room next door doesn't do?

But the standards do have benefits. The main one is that at least there are criteria around which to discuss your teaching. In the past, it has been too easy to judge NQTs by the quality of their control and the attractiveness of their classroom displays. The standards force all concerned to analyse teaching at a deeper level. More importantly, your teaching will be looked at in direct relation to the impact on children's learning. You need to keep evidence that you are meeting or making progress n meeting the standards. This needn't involve reams of extra paper but a referencing of where evidence for each standard lies, such as below.

Sara Bubb works with NQTs and students at the London Institute of Education (s.bubb@ioe.ac.uk). She also answers questions for students and new teachers in Friday magazine and on the TES website (www.tes.co.uk). Her book A Newly Qualified Teacher's Manual has just been published by David Fulton.


a Sets clear targets for improvement of pupils' achievement, monitors progress towards those targets and uses appropriate teaching strategies in the light of this, including, where appropriate, in relation to literacy, numeracy and other school targets. (Planning, assessment file, observing pupils' work, target cards).

b Plans effectively to ensure that pupils have the opportunity to meet their potential, notwithstanding differences of race and gender, and taking account of the needs of pupils who are underachieving, very able, or not yet fluent in English; making use of relevant information and specialist help where available. (Planning and observing pupils' work).

c Secures a good standard of pupil behaviour in the classroom through establishing appropriate rules and high expectations of discipline which pupils respect, acting to pre-empt and deal with inappropriate behaviour in the context of the behaviour policy of the school. (Observations, display of class rules).

d Plans effectively to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs and, with the special needs co-ordinator, makes an appropriate contribution to the preparation, implementation, monitoring and review of individual education plans. (Planning, assessment file, observations, individual education plans, pupils' work, Senco).

e Takes account of ethnic and cultural diversity to enrich the curriculum and raise achievement. (Planning, classroom display).

f Recognises the level that a pupil is achieving and makes accurate assessments, independently, against attainment targets, where applicable, and performance levels associated with other tests or qualifications relevant to the subject(s) or phase(s) taught. (Assessment file, standardisation meetings).

g Liaises effectively with pupils' parentscarers through informative oral and written reports on pupils' progress and achievements, discussing appropriate targets, and encouraging them to support their children's learning, behaviour and progress. (Reports, letters to parents, notes from parents' evenings).

h Where applicable, deploys support staff and other adults effectively in the classroom, involving them, where appropriate, in the planning and management of pupils' learning. (Planning, observations).

i Takes responsibility for implementing school policies and practices, including those dealing with bullying and racial harassment. (Observations, playground incident book).

j Takes responsibility for their own professional development, setting objectives for improvements, and taking action to keep up-to-date with research and developments in pedagogy and in the subjects they teach. (Objectives and action plans, reflective notes, induction file and course notes).

k To complete induction successfully, an NQT trained in England, qualifying on or after May 1 2000 and before May 2001, must have passed the national test for teacher-training candidates in numeracy, before the completion of the induction period. (Proof of passing test).

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