Survival kit for the assault course to come
Schools, like teaching, grow ever more complex and more demanding. It's hardly surprising, then, that Elizabeth Holmes's Newly Qualified Teacher's Handbook, first published by the Stationery Office in 1999, should be reissued now, in a third, enlarged edition, and one directed to the needs of all new teachers, including "returners" and supply teachers.
And all teachers, certainly, will find it helpful: an invaluable source of information, advice and reassurance. Like its predecessors, it starts with getting a job and continues with joining a school, working through your induction, and managing the job. A section on frequently asked questions fills in the loose ends, and a full appendix lists the NQT and induction standards, the depressingly universal acronyms and (helpfully) the addresses of the LEAs and agencies that are the new teacher's potential employers.
The inevitable problems are how much to put in, and how much to update. On the first question, the author leans to comprehensiveness: there is a list, for example, of 100 "action words" that can be used in letters of application to avoid repetition of "I did", or of 25 checks to be completed for a visit out of school, or of 30 official documents (including nine Acts of Parliament) that define the teacher's role. By the same token, though, there is excellent advice on (three examples) classroom management, teaching strategies and pastoral care.
The second question is more difficult to resolve. Sensibly, the author cites the websites such as www.teachernet and the standards site on which most official change is signalled. There is a useful section on the new inspection framework; understandably, there is lengthy coverage of the issues around child abuse. Performance management is dealt with (under the mysterious heading of ICT and CPD), but there is very little on special needs. The new salary structure is not clearly explained; there are some errors. Voluntary controlled schools, for instance, are incorrectly defined, and the defunct Further Education Funding Council is still stated as being in charge of education post-16.
But those are minor flaws. This is a book that lives up to its title: helpful in content, reassuring in tone, down to earth in application. How sensible, for example, to have a section on staffroom politics and etiquette, always a potential pitfall, or how to cope with your first assembly, or on not being tempted to opt out of the teachers' pension scheme; how wise to put behaviour management firmly into its teaching and learning context, and to help new teachers deal with the low-level disruption ("the persistent interruptions of chatterers and comedians") that is most damaging to it. The most consistent message is that you have to be willing to ask for advice and ready to take it. That is crucially important.
Teaching, especially in the early years, can be demanding: too many teachers, discovering this, quit. All the more need, then, for this handbook. It is not quite the "lifesaver" its cover proclaims - the quotation is from a TES review of the first edition in 1999, not a review of this edition, as the reader might presume - but it's certainly a manual for survival.