Stand up for your rights

5th May 2000 at 01:00
Induction is challenging enough without being deprived of support from your school. Sara Bubb offers advice for NQTs who feel short-changed.

Two terms into the new induction arrangements and there is still confusion as to newly qualified teachers' entitlements. Some people do not realise that induction is statutory for teachers who qualified after May 1999. Only last month, a headteacher told me how lucky her NQT was to be released for half a day a week.

The new induction provision isn't about luck and favours. It is an entitlement that has been planned, funded and which headteachers "are required by law to take into account", according to DfEE Circular 599.

The provision should enable NQTs to meet the standards for the end of the induction period. These are very demanding and the repercussions of not meeting them huge. Those who don't pass will not be allowed to teach. Not getting the induction entitlement will certainly be grounds for appeal. Every NQT should have:

* a job that does not make unreasonable demands;

* an induction tutor, who has the necessary skills, expertise and knowledge to support, monitor and assess;

* meetings with the induction tutor;

* objectives set and reviewed half-termly to help them meet the standards for the induction period;

* a 10 per cent timetable reduction for induction;

* a planned programme of how to spend that time - at least one observation of their teaching each half-term with oral and written feedback;

* an assessment meeting to review progress towards the end of each term;

* an end-of-term assessment report;

* procedures for airing grievances.

Most NQTs are happy with their induction provision. There are, however, a significant number who, through no fault of their own, are in schools where all is not as it should be. Here are some problems that NQTs are having:

The school says it can't afford to give me the 10 per cent release time

The DfEE has given LEAs money to delegate to schools to cover the 10 per cent reduced timetable. However, it is in Standards Fund 1, under the huge umbrella of School Improvement, where it can get hidden. If schools believe they don't have enough money, they should speak to the LEA.

My half-day for induction is often cancelled due to staff sickness

This will happen occasionally, but your induction time should be protected as far as possible and, if missed, should be made up at some other time. The money is to cover your induction time, not for sick leave.

There is no plan for how I should spend my half day

You should plan with your induction tutor what to do in your 10 per cent induction time. If it isn't planned, it can easily be frittered away - or cancelled. Activities should link to helping you meet your objectives and contribute to your professional development. Observing other teachers is most popular.

My induction tutor doesn't realise what's involved

The induction tutor's role is new and many feel they need training to support, monitor and assess you confidently. Both of you should read the key documentation, DfEE Circular 599 The Induction Period for Newly Qualified Teachers (call 0845 602 2260 for a copy), and the TTA Supporting Induction booklets(call 0845 606 0323).

My induction tutor is a brilliant teacher but doesn't have time to meet me

Few people realise how time-consuming being an induction tutor is. Book some meetings with the induction tutor, and have a clear idea what you want to talk about. Aim for quality if not quantity when time is tight. Could others take over aspects of the job?

I haven't been observed

You should be observed at least every half-term and receive feedback, so you can set objectives based on first-hand experience of your teaching. At the start of each half-term, ask your induction tutor when the observation will be.

I have no written objectives

Induction standard (j) requires NQTs to "take responsibility for their own professional development, setting objectives for improvements". These and an action plan should be set and reviewed at least every half-term with the induction tutor.

I've got the worst class in the school, with a huge proportion of children with learning and behaviour problems

NQTs should not have a job that makes "unreasonable demands" on them. If you have a tough class, you should be given extra support.

The school is in crisis - priorities are elsewhere, not on us

It's hard to complain to the head or LEA in this situation, but it is important. If you're not getting support, the children's learning will suffer and problems will escalate. The school might seek help from outside.

Everyone says I'm doing well, so no one is setting objectives, observing or meeting with me

Induction is statutory for all NQTs. Even the very successful have the right to be challenged so that they become more effective. Be proactive in asking for meetings and observations.

There are lots of NQTs in the school, so we have to take it in turns to go to the LEA induction sessions

It's not your fault that the school has many NQTs. Find out which sessions will be of most use and make a strong case for going on them. Say how much you would gain from a course directed to helping NQTs meet the induction standards and from talking to others at the same stage as you.

Complaining is always uncomfortable, and NQTs are in a particularly tricky situation.

As one NQT said: "It is very difficult to discuss problems. I want to pass my induction year and, if this means keeping my head down and mouth shut, that's what I'll do.

"The alternative is to highlight problems with my support and then have to face awkward times with my induction tutor or head, with the implications that might have on whether they pass or fail me."

Problems should be remedied, not least because the stakes are so high. NQTs will suffer because of inadequate induction provision and are unlikely to have this level of support again.

Thousands of children will be better taught if new teachers are helped to teach more effectively. If NQTs' school grievance procedures do not work, every LEA has a "named person" that they can approach.

* Sara Bubb runs induction courses in Lambeth, Lewisham and at the Institute of Education where she teaches primary PGCE students. Her book, The Effective Induction of Newly Qualified Teachers: An Induction Tutor's Handbook, will be published in June by David Fulton

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