Ready for the road ahead

9th January 1998 at 00:00
The career entry profile will give newly qualified teachers an active agreement with their school on continued professional development. James Williams explains how it should work

This September, for the first time, new teachers will start their jobs with a career entry profile. The profile, designed and produced by the Teacher Training Agency, will be issued to all students who attain qualified teacher status from June of this year. Frankie Sulke, head of teacher training at the TTA, says the profile "is the essential bridge between initial teacher training and continuing professional development".

The profile aims to help schools deploy new teachers effectively, to draw up an action plan for their induction year, to provide monitoring and support, to target their personal development needs and encourage them to take responsibility for their own continuing professional development.

There are three contributors to the profile, the initial training institution, the employer and, most importantly, the student. The profile has four sections. Section A summarises the training the student received, section B is agreed by the student and the training provider and lists their strengths and priorities for their induction year. In section C the new teacher sets their own targets for the induction year and in section D, probably the most important section, an agreed action plan for the induction year is set out by teacher and employer.

As Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said when he introduced the trial year for newly qualified teachers: "when teachers leave their initial training and take up posts in schools, it is vital that they get the support they need to do the job well and to tackle any weaknesses right at the start. It must be structured, planned support and development."

Frankie Sulke supports this wholeheartedly and adds that "induction isn't just about support and additional training, it is also about making sure that somebody is monitoring the new teacher so that they know where extra support is needed and how the new teacher is doing".

The current provision of induction for new teachers, however, is not consistent around the country. In February ministers will be distributing a consultation document on proposals for a nationally agreed induction programme. This will be supported by the career entry profile, which states that any action plans agreed by the student and their employer should be developed in relation to any nationally identified objectives for induction.

But where is the funding for nationally agreed induction likely to come from? A Department for Education and Employment spokesperson said that money will be made available from the standards fund as from April of this year. LEAs and individual schools not governed by LEAs will be able to bid for money to fund induction year proposals. At this point, however, there is no indication of the amount of money that may be made available nationally. The TTA did run a pilot scheme where 300 new teachers were allocated Pounds 500 specifically targeted at providing induction support.

The move to allow for money specifically targeted at induction is welcome. How that money is then usefully deployed is another issue. LEAs will have control over any money that is successfully bid for and may choose to either distribute that money to schools with newly qualified teachers, provide a central service for their induction in its schools or have a proportion of the funding for central control with the rest distributed to schools.

With a centrally-funded model it is difficult to see how the individual needs of new teachers, agreed between them and the school, could be successfully met with a generic induction programme. If funding goes directly to schools then the amount would need to be carefully determined so that an adequate sum could be provided to support any new teachers' needs. Supply teacher cover for lessons is expensive and quality in-service training courses are not cheap.

Once an induction year programme has been agreed between the new teacher and their employer, the profile is designed to ensure that the support is given. The action plan will set out specific targets and, more importantly who has responsibility for action in that target area, what the success criteria are and what resources may be needed to meet the target effectively. It will also set review dates for progress and dates for successful completion of the targets.

Frankie Sulke believes that the agreement reached between the school and the new teacher is vital: "The reason for having an agreed action plan is so that everything that is documented is manageable, actionable and will actually happen."

Should an agreed programme not be delivered, however, there are currently no guidelines on what should happen, though the consultation on the nationally agreed induction programme should look carefully at this issue. If the teacher fails to tackle any initial weaknesses and fully master the skills needed in the classroom then David Blunkett's proposals for an induction or trial year will fail to confirm them as fully qualified teachers.

The implications of this are another matter for the consultation paper in February on the agreed national programme for induction. For example, does this mean that someone who has met all the new standards to qualify and take up their first post may fail their induction year and not be accepted as a fully qualified teacher? The implications of this on a teacher's status within the school and their professional development will need careful consideration.

Teacher training institutions will be addressing career entry profiles over the coming months. Reports on the skills acquired by students from classroom observation by school-based mentors and trainers, continual monitoring of students in their school experience in relation to the new standards for newly qualified teacher status will provide the necessary evidence for completing sections A, B and C of the profile. Much of the work will be done by the student though the training institutions will have a role in guiding and advising the students on identifying their strengths, weaknesses and priorities. Section D, the targets and action plan for the induction period, cannot be completed until the new teacher takes up their first post. The career entry profile has not been designed as a reference and the guidelines state that it should not be treated as such.

Doubtless some who do not take up a post immediately after qualifying may use the profile during their search for a job, but its prime focus will be to produce an individualised action plan that helps build on the day-to-day skills of being a good teacher.

As David Blunkett says: "It is clear we must prepare teachers for the challenges they will face in their career right at the beginning. The induction year will build on their initial training, where strengths and development needs will have been identified and will set the pace and direction of their future professional development."

The career entry profile is the first step in making sure that newly qualified teachers are properly introduced to an exacting and demanding career and given the proper support at a time when their new-found skills need reinforcing.

The DFEE and the TTA see the trail or induction year becoming the norm in every school. This will mean that each new teacher will be shadowed by a more experienced colleague with guided support. Whether the funding for this will be sufficient to ensure its success in every school will only be seen once details of the new standards fund are made public.

James Williams is a lecturer in science education at Brunel University

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