New teachers should experience a full timetable before the end of their probation to prepare them for life as fully-fledged teachers, according to an HMIE report into mentoring, writes Emma Seith.
Current arrangements for probationers are "too prescriptive", inspectors said.
Instead of new teachers having a reduced timetable (equivalent to 70 per cent of a typical teacher's) for their entire probation, inspectors are calling for greater flexibility. As their probation progresses, new teachers should spend an ever-increasing amount of time in the classroom, according to HMIE.
In their report, Mentoring in Teacher Education, inspectors highlighted the need for more training for mentors and for schools to ensure that the time allocated for mentoring is protected. It stated: "Many mentors and NQTs would have preferred more flexible use of time in line with each individual NQT's development.
"In particular, they felt more time to work together was required at the induction stages. They felt it would be beneficial to allow NQTs to have greater class contact time as the year progressed."
According to Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector of education, new teachers are generally "well supported during their first year of teaching". Overall, inspectors found, newly qualified teachers were "very positive" about their induction year.
However, while most mentors had three years' experience in the role, inspectors uncovered "a small number of instances" where new teachers were placed in the care of staff "insufficiently experienced and skilled in mentoring" in the hope they would rise to the challenge.
They reported: "Some headteachers and other promoted staff saw deployment in the mentoring role as an opportunity to develop and demonstrate the leadership skills of the staff concerned."
In "a few instances", HMIE reported, new teachers were not being "sufficiently challenged to develop and improve their classroom practice". A "sustained focus" on developing teachers' skills in mentoring was recommended.
However, even when new teachers were placed with promoted staff - the most common set-up - they could end up feeling frustrated and less well supported due to mentors' "competing priorities". HMIE said: "Schools needed to ensure that time allocated for mentoring NQTs was protected and changes to planned activities minimised."