Novices not so cheap;Leading Article;Opinion

17th September 1999 at 01:00
PROPER induction arrangements for teachers in their first year have at last become the subject of unequivocal rights and responsibilities. That is the good news - the very good news, far outweighing any initial administrative or financial glitches (see page 3). No proper profession should, on the basis of a few months' training, pitch novices head-long into the demanding classroom roles which the newly-qualified are so often recruited to fill. Such roles often tax the most experienced staff, and effective support and monitoring are as vital to the whole school and its pupils as to the new teacher.

New young teachers never have been quite as cheap an option as their position on the salary scale implies. They frequently bring other advantages - fresh insight and enthusiasm, as well as mobility and availability. But they also carry inescapable costs, in management effort and reduced timetables, if they are to be successfully initiated into the service.

There is an understandable feeling in schools that when the Government wills the ends it ought to ensure the means. And there are now signs, as The TES warned earlier in the year, that many schools are not receiving enough extra funding to cover the new induction arrangements. Money is said to have been paid by the Government to local education authorities through the Standards Fund. But what cash there was to give NQTs proper induction training has become obscured in the general fog surrounding school funding and the Byzantine formulae that councils have concocted to share it out.

This may make unhappy reading for new entrants. After all, their whole future in the profession depends upon successful completion of their first year. So it is imperative that schools find the time and money to provide the reduced timetables and mentoring to which they have a right. New teachers should not be backward in complaining to their head - or union - if they do not get their entitlement.

Schools - and even local authorities - may have a case to argue that needs-based funding for induction should have been exclusively earmarked for the purpose. But, small schools apart, teachers are funded on average costs rather than the low actual salary paid to beginners. The saving to the school over several years should more than make up for the initial costs of thoughtful and effective induction.

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