Support in all the right places

12th January 2001 at 00:00
You're in the middle of your induction year. But, says Neil Simco, your assessment is not just teaching practice all over again.

The induction year in England has two key underpinning principles. First, that you are entitled to a programme of monitoring and support, tailored to your individual needs and aspirations and, second, that your teaching will be assessed against national criteria. At first sight, this second principle may seem a little daunting - you may feel that your teaching skills have already come under enough scrutiny during your training. However, the arrangements for the induction year have been set up to ensure that this is assessed in a very different way to teaching placements.

First, the criteria are different. The Dfee has laid down 11 broadly-based induction standards (see page 16) which build on those for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). While it is true that you also have to demonstrate you have consistently met the QTS standards over a period of time, the assessment will be at a much less detailed level than in initial training. All this is reflected in the national proforma for recording the assessment of your induction year.

You should have three assessment meetings, typically with your induction tutor and headteacher or head of department; at the end of term one where the extent to which you are consistently meeting the QTS standards is considered, at the end of term two where there is consideration of whether the induction standards have been achieved and, finally, at the end of term three where all the requirements of the induction period are reviewed.

You should also get more support and monitoring in your induction year. The principle is that you can't be expected to make professional progress unless there is adequate support in place. The opportunities you have to observe other teachers in action, attend courses for newly-qualified teachers and work towards individual targets recorded in your career entry profile (CEP) matter. All of these should be placed alongside the formal assessment of the induction year as recorded on the national assessment proforma.

This is different from the old-style probationary year - and is one reason why the induction year is not a return to probation, as many believe. Probationary teachers had no formal entitlement to support during their first year of teaching, no CEP bridging initial training and induction, and no 10 per cent release time. While many probationary teachers felt warmly welcomed into schools and received some form of professional support, it was not part of a national system which set out a minimum entitlement. Although the amount and quality of support may not be consistent between schools and local education authorities, at least the new arrangements mean there is a formal entitlement to support - and an acknowledgement that there is a relationship between how well you do and how well you are supported.

Another important difference between initial training and induction is concerned with evidence. In some cases during training, you will have had to complete a professional development file in which you cite evidence for every one of the standards for QTS. In others, you will have been asked to ensure that evidence is available for groups of QTS standards.

In many instances this will have been backed up with or cross-referenced to specific pieces of evidence, including observation proformas, children's work, lesson plans, evaluations, and so on. In your induction year, the assessment is much more broadly based which means that, except in the minority of cases where a NQT is at risk of not meeting the requirements, the amount of evidence needed will be much less.

Typically, this will include some of the following: n Evidence of pupl achievement. At the assessment meetings you may wish to cite specific pieces of pupils' work to demonstrate that your teaching has led to them making clear progress. For example, one element of the induction standards relates to setting appropriate targets for pupil achievement. You could, for instance, provide evidence about how you have set different targets in a curriculum area for the same pupil at different times in the induction year. Work produced by this pupil would demonstrate the achievement of these targets.

* Lesson observations. During your induction year, you will have been observed by a range of different people - such as your induction tutor, your head of department, headteacher and an LEA adviser. These will provide important evidence that you are meeting the year's requirements, particularly if they are recorded on a proforma which uses the headings of the induction standards.

* Your career entry profile. Reaching targets set in your CEP does not prove that you have met the induction-year requirements, but you can cite their achievement as evidence of your professional progress in specific areas.

* Self-assessment. An important principle in the assessment of the induction year is that it is done "with you" not "to you". You are a professional, qualified teacher and, as such, the relationship you have with your assessors should be different compared with initial training. So, your self-assessment should have considerable status in the overall assessment of the requirements. Indeed, on the national proforma you are invited to make comments about the assessment - and this could well include some remarks related to your self-assessment.

Your relationship with your induction tutor should ideally be reflected in the way that the three formal assessment meetings are conducted. You should consider the following: * You should know well in advance the date and time for the meeting and you should also be involved in setting the agenda. This will enable both you and your induction tutor to prepare adequately for the meeting and, in particular, you should be able to decide which specific pieces of evidence you wish to cite.

* Where the meeting is held gives messages about whether the assessment is being done with you or to you. A meeting held in the induction tutor's office creates a different ethos from one held in your classroom or in a "neutral" location.

* The meeting should be conducted in a way which encourages professional dialogue, not an assessment which is delivered to you. While your induction tutor will have clear views about your work, your own self-assessment has considerable weight.

There are at least four reasons why the assessment of your induction year differs from assessing teaching practice: the induction-year criteria are different from the QTS standards, the quality of support and monitoring is tied in with the assessment of the year, the evidence base for the assessment of the year should be streamlined, and your status as a qualified teacher creates a different dynamic in your relationship with your induction tutor.

The assessment of the induction year should, in essence, be broadly-based and "light touch" when compared with teaching practice. The only exception is the tiny minority of NQTs who are at risk of failing to meet the requirements. For most, it should be straightforward, unproblematic and undertaken in such a way which recognises and respects your status as a qualified teacher.

Dr Neil Simco is director of primary programmes for St Martin's College in Ambleside. He is the author of Succeeding in the Induction Year (Learning Matters) and has acted as consultant to the Teacher Training Agency in the development of the national arrangements for induction.

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