'Students need to seek help and support'

10th January 2003 at 00:00
For newly qualified and trainee teachers, life can be particularly stressful. According to Jenny Blount, head of training and development at the Teacher Support Network, many teachers cite the PGCE year as the most difficult.

On a four-year education degree course, there are lots of opportunities to get into schools, but on a PGCE course, the school experience is restricted and there's huge pressure to succeed in just one year.

There is little time to build relationships with students, so behaviour management can be a big headache.

For a student on the graduate teacher programme, the pressure can lie with having to do the job and train at the same time. The opportunity to earn and train can be attractive, but can work against them.

"Students on a graduate training programme have to be clear about their entitlements," warns Blount. "An 80 per cent timetable is the maximum for a graduate trainee, but some find themselves being used to fill school vacancies and miss out on crucial training. Because they are being paid, they feel guilty, but they shouldn't."

So what should you do if you're starting to go under?

"The most important thing is not to panic," says Blount. "It helps if you can isolate the problem and then seek help and support. If you have a mentor in school, you could talk to them. Although, it's sometimes better to speak to someone who's impartial."

Trainees at universities and college should talk to their tutors about how they are feeling. Students on graduate trainee schemes can seek support from mentors outside their subject area. An NQT who doesn't feel supported in school, should make contact with their LEA who will put them in contact with an adviser who may be able to provide information about networks and support groups for NQTs.

If you've exhausted all forms of support and still feel unable to complete your training or induction period, it shouldn't spell the end of your career. It is still possible to teach, but important to remember that without a qualification or successful induction period, you may only be paid as an instructor. For those unsure about how they might handle the responsibility of a teaching job, working as a learning support assistant might be more appropriate, particularly as there are now opportunities for assistants to teach small groups. Taking this route could allow for further observation of teaching and learning in preparation for further training.

With PGCE and graduate teacher programmes it is worth asking training providers about taking a break from training and returning at a later date.

"I'd always encourage people to complete a teacher training or induction year where possible," says Blount.

"But there are circumstances in which an individual feels unable to continue. They often want to continue working in education, but it doesn't suit them at the time."

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