Starters' orders

8th January 1999 at 00:00
Carolyn O'Grady says an overhaul of the induction period will bring more support and more stringent assessment for new teachers. Below, Laura Mannering asks if those who start off by supply teaching could be missing out

In October last year the Teacher Training Agency published its consultation document on a statutory induction year for newly qualified teachers. The deadline for submissions was December 17 and the new "regulations" will be put before Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett around the end of January.

One of its most controversial proposals is that newly qualified teachers who fail to complete the induction period satisfactorily within five years could be disqualified from teaching.

NQTs have admitted to being quite frightened at the prospect of another year of being observed and graded, with the possibility of being kicked out of the profession. What if you found your school had more children with challenging behaviour than you felt had been taken into account, or you had a personality clash with your "induction tutor"?

But as scary as they appear, the proposals do guarantee a reduced workload and protect NQTs from "unreasonable demands". For example, they state that beginner teachers should regularly teach the same classes and not be presented with demanding discipline problems. They also ensure increased support and structured professional development.

The standardisation of the process and the support the recommendations guarantee have been generally welcomed. "It is accepted that it was a mistake to have done away with the induction process in the past," says Ted Wragg, Professor of Education at Exeter University. "But then it wasn't done well - it varied considerably from school to school.

"Any difficulties NQTs experience are usually due to lack of support. Too often relatively few concessions are made, and they 're given too much responsibility."

Others fear that would-be teachers may be put off by this extra year of assessment, making recruitment more difficult. They suggest that though funding has been allocated for reduced timetables, schools may still be reluct-ant to take on many NQTs.

"They will require a large degree of support," says Jacquie Nunn, a director at the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education. "And will schools be able to manage a number of individualised professional development programmes?" If implemented in full, what would the TTA's new recommendations mean? Here is a brief summary of a dense document.

The induction period will last for at least three terms and will apply to teachers who are awarded qualified teacher status from May 1999. While mandatory for those teaching in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools, teachers in independent schools will also be able to undertake it.

The arrangements, suggest the TTA, should cover those on fixed-term contracts as well as those on permanent contract, and both full and part-time NQTs. Teachers can complete the period in more than one school, with periods of service added up (each must be at least one term).

But no more than five years should normally pass between the beginning and completion of the induction time. Induction can also be completed part-time as long as teachers are working for at least 40 per cent of the timetable normally allocated.

During induction an NQT's timetable should be no more than 90 per cent of that allocated to teachers not doing their induction.

The cornerstone of the induction period's development programme is the new Career Entry Profile, which came into effect in June 1998. Individualised development programmes will be built on the list of strengths and development priorities contained in this.

Programmes will involve observation of the new teacher, regular monitoring, assessment and review of progress. It should also include access to additional training programmes and advice from professionals outside the school. Day to day monitoring, support and assessment should be the responsibility of a designated member of staff, usually the teacher's line manager or the headteacher.

The Induction Standards are set out under the headings Planning, Teaching and Class Management; Monitoring, Assessment, Recording, Reporting and Accountability; and other Professional Requirements (for example: "deploys support staff effectively" and "takes responsibility for implementing school policies and practices").

It is the headteacher who at the end of the period has to recommend to the "appropriate body" (in most cases the local education authority) whether or not the NQT has satisfactorily complete the induction period. In exceptional cases an extension could be granted.

On taking up a first post, a teacher who has been awarded Qualified Teacher Status will be provisionally registered with the General Teaching Council (when it is established). A teacher who fails the induction period would be removed from the GTC register, and could no longer be employed as a teacher in a maintained school or non-maintained special school.

So what would happen if you felt aggrieved by the decision or by the process itself? You should first bring up the matter within the school, and with the governing body. If that fails, the next step would be to contact a named individual in the "appropriate body". Finally a "de-registered" teacher could appeal to the GTC of England or Wales, or to the Education Secretary.

But the implication is that things shouldn't get that far. The TTA recommends that new teachers should be able to participate in their target setting and professional development. If things are going wrong says the document, NQTs should be warned by their mentor or headteacher and given support to make improvements.

* Induction for Newly Qualified Teachers: recommendations on monitoring, support and assessment arrangements. A consultation document. Teacher Training Agency, tel 01245 454454

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