More than a mentor

7th July 2000 at 01:00
As an induction tutor you need to provide a shoulder to lean on - but it doesn't stop there. Sara Bubb explains what it takes

Thousands of teachers are coming to the end of their first year doing a new and important job - being induction tutors. They are essential to the success of the statutory induction arrangements, which require newly qualified teachers to meet challenging standards before being registered with the General Teaching Council. The consequences of failing to meet the standards are severe - anyone who fails to register will be unable to teach in the maintained sector.

Being an induction tutor is not the same as being a mentor. Tutors are responsible for three areas - support, monitoring and assessment. Most people are happy in the support role, but find their responsibilities for monitoring and assessment can conflict with this.

Many teachers have taken on the role without fully appreciating the day-to-day responsibility it involves.

In particular, induction tutors must:

* be aware of the induction period's requirements;

* have the necessary skills, expertise and knowledge;

* provide or co-ordinate effective guidance and support;

* devise an individualised programme of monitoring and support that gives NQTs the opportunity to develop their knowledge, improve their skills and achieve their goals;

* make rigorous and fair judgments about the new teacher's performance in relation to the induction standards.

These are huge responsibilities, made no easier by many people's failure to understand fully the role - and the lack of status accorded to the job. Induction tutors need a high level of skill and knowledge, yet few have had sufficient preparation, training or advice to give them confidence.

The Teacher Training Agency's Supporting Induction booklets are useful, but were not published until after last Christmas and were not sent to all schools. Even now, new induction tutors attend courses without having seen or even heard of them.

To do the job properly takes a great deal of time - a precious resource in schools. Induction tutors often have many other time-consuming roles and their induction work is rarely funded or timetabled.

The Department for Education and Employment has rightly devoted money to ensuring that NQTs have a 10 per cent reduced timetable, but few schools have enough to cover the costs of support, monitoring and assessment. Too much has to be done on goodwill.

Many induction tutors report worries about their performance in the job. They don't know whether they are expecting too much or too little of their NQTs - some even welcome an Ofsted inspection because it gives them an objective measure of how well their NQTs are teaching.

What can tutors do to make the job manageable?

* Give yourself time to read about and fully understand the requirements. You need some key publications - Circular 599 The Induction Period for Newly Qualified Teachers (telephone 0845 602 2260 for a copy), the Career Entry Profile, and the TTA Supporting Induction booklets (telephone 0845 606 0323 for copies). Get "induction tutor" written into your job description, with appropriate remuneration.

* Ensure that your headteacher and senior management team know what the job involves and try to delegate some other area of responsibility. Arrange with your head to put one of your other responsibilities on the back burner, at least for the NQT's first term.

* Get training and resources for the role. Most local education authorities and universities run induction training for NQTs, but provision for those supporting them in schools is limited. Shop around to find a course that gives you the level of help you require. Some offer accreditation towards advanced diplomas or masters degrees - a good way to get something in return for your hard work.

* Be clear about your role, and be organised. Set dates for meetings, assessment sessions and reports, and put them in the school diary. Have a fixed time for induction that everyone knows about, ideally during the school day. If it is after school, make sure the time is sacrosanct and cannot be used for other meetings.

* Make contacts with other schools so you can arrange for your NQT to visit. See what topics are covered by NQT induction programmes organised by LEAs or universities. This will save you covering them yourself.

* Buy in someone from outside the school to help with observing your NQTs. This is useful if you feel you don't have the time or expertise, or if he or she is having problems. They will be able to give an objective picture of how your NQT is doing compared with others.

* Develop your role by becoming the person responsible for students on teaching practice in your school. You will find this interesting and it will give you insights into the whole world of teacher education as you see people at various stages of their courses. The skills for working with students are similar, though not the same, as those you use with NQTs.

* Delegate to others. For instance, plan for the headteacher, deputy and co-ordinators to do some observations with written feedback. Find someone to be the NQT's "buddy mentor" and someone else to help them with planning and assessment. Remember that the whole school is responsible for induction.

* Cheer yourself up by reflecting on all that you have learned from being an induction tutor. You are bound to have become a better teacher and manager from helping a novice, and probably feel hugely knowledgeable and experienced next to them. You will also have gained ideas.

Sara Bubb trains induction tutors at London university's Institute of Education and for Lambeth, Lewisham and Medway LEAs. Her book, The Effective Induction of Newly Qualified Teachers: an induction tutor's handbook, was published last month by David Fulton


Jo Clarke, deputy head of Clapham Manor primary school in Lambeth, south London, is the induction tutor for two NQTs. At first she thought it would be straightforward, as she had been a mentor for students and new teachers in the past. Though at ease in the supporting and monitoring role, she initially felt uncomfortable at combining these with being an assessor and found the statutory responsibilities intimidating.

"When I discovered that I wasn't just a mentor, I realised how much I needed training," she says. She has benefited from meeting other induction tutors at the Lambeth induction tutor courses and has formed a network of other schools for her NQTs to visit. She finds the suggested formats and procedures from the Lambeth courses useful.

The whole school is involved in the induction of new staff. The NQTs get a great deal of support from their year group partners, who help them with planning. Jo arranges for observations to be made by curriculum co-ordinators as well as herself, so judgments are corporate and full use is made of staff expertise. Co-ordinators discuss their observations with Jo before they feed back to the NQTs, to avoid contradictory messages.

Both Jo and the new teachers feel that it is important to have systems for induction. "You have to plan time for them because life in school takes over, and it's easy to leave them to their own devices, especially when they're doing well," says Jo. Progress is discussed at weekly timetabled meetings and Jo finds that setting half-termly objectives helps in planning how to spend the 10 per cent release time. In this way, the activities meet the NQT's individual needs.

She is concerned about the lack of national moderation and worries about whether she is doing enough for the NQTs and whether her view of how well they are doing is correct. "It's so subjective," she says. "It's like walking in the dark."

She finds the role time-consuming - three hours a week on average in the first term. Each observation takes about two-and-a-half hours - an hour to observe and another one-and-a-half to write up and feed back. "I'm lucky that I'm a non-class based deputy so I have some time to do the job properly. It also helps having strong NQTs - if they had been weak I would have had much more difficulty."

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