Now is the time for you to shine

24th March 2006 at 00:00
A teacher arrested for heroin possession can apply for the prohibition order to be lifted after four years, yet if you fail induction, you're barred for life

With snowdrops, daffodils and a glorious Easter holiday to look forward to, spring is on its way. So it would be understandable if you forgot about your assessment. It may not seem two minutes since the last one was done, but the next one has to be sent off to the local authority before the end of term. And it's really important.

If you see the assessment process in a positive light, you'll like the way it gives a clear picture of how you're doing. It's a boost to morale to have an official record of your strengths and the progress you're making; and an assessment against nationwide standards seems fair and objective.

For some new teachers it seems like the sword of Damocles is hanging over them - fail in your assessments and you fail induction. Even though the rule has been around for six years, I still hear sharp intakes of breath when I remind NQTs of this. Anyone who fails induction in England is never allowed to teach in maintained or non-maintained special schools again.

That's it. You can't re-take it.

It is an appalling consequence of not doing well in your first year. But it seems even more draconian when you see what happens to teachers who have done terrible things and have faced disciplinary panels at the General Teaching Council*. For example, a teacher caught accessing porn on the school computer in school time only has a conditional registration order (six months); another was arrested for "being in possession of heroin with intent to supply", and failed to tell her school about it. She has a prohibition order but can apply for it to be lifted after four years. It's a mad world, yet if you fail induction in your first year, you're barred for life.

New teachers who do fail can appeal against the decision to the GTC. At the induction appeal hearings, the GTC can choose to 1) dismiss the case, 2) allow a newly qualified teacher to have an extension, or 3) allow the appeal, which means the NQT is judged to have passed his or her induction year. You can read more about it in Annex F of the induction rules at:

Whether you're worried about passing induction or not, make sure your second assessment is done properly. It's really important as it is the last time someone will write about your performance in depth. The third assessment form only requires signatures if you meet the standards. There's no end-of-induction-year report in England and Wales, which is a shame, and another example of where Scotland has a better system: new teachers there have written reports at the end of terms one and three, and a brief one in term two.

Help your induction tutor by writing notes about how you're meeting the standards either by annotating last term's report or jotting down evidence, and setting objectives for next term. The form must be filled in before the end of this term and sent to your appropriate body at the local authority or if you're in an independent school, the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel. Check that it has been received, too.

Your head has to say either that your "progress indicates that you will or won't be able to meet the requirements for the satisfactory completion of the induction period". This is a warning; it is the decision at the end of the year that matters.

In the first term's assessment, it isn't quite the end of the world not to be making satisfactory progress. But if your head makes that judgment now, you have every reason to panic. It doesn't bode well. In theory, you should be able to pull things together in the remaining third term and your school should move heaven and earth to help you do so.

In practice, problems at this stage are very hard to turn around. If you're in this position, get advice, especially from your union. You might want to leave the school and complete your third term at another time and place.

With lessons learned, a fresh start may be just what you need.

Make sure that you write a comment: that you agree with the assessment, or not. Remember, your head and local authority are responsible for induction as a whole, so raise any issues with them. Be clear about what support you want and show your induction tutor that you're grateful for any advice, any praise - and a thank you to them will go a long way.

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