Talking shop

24th March 2000 at 00:00
Former headteacher Sue Mulvany gets to the heart of issues that concern you Q I am on my final teaching practice and I'm worried it might badly affect my career prospects. The class teacher refuses to give time to the weekly training and review meetings and has not helped me fill in the documentation as she is supposed to.

She has made it clear that she sees me as an assistant and not a teacher in my own right. Another complication is that my university tutor judged the last lesson she observed as excellent - but this same lesson my class teacher called awful. The problem is many of the jobs I'm applying for request references from my last teaching practice. I have mentioned my problems to the university but they will not take action.

A Speak to your tutor again and discuss matters with your course leader. At school, I suggest you do two things. First, ask the class teacher to go through the feedback notes from your tutor carefully. Ask yourself if her comments are truly in opposition to the tutor's or are they exemplification on a more detailed level.

Second, speak to the head about how the attitude of the teacher is making you feel unsupported, and about your concerns regarding the reference you would get. The head may be able to reassure you. At the very least, the head should guarantee that time is set aside for your professional development. If the problems lie entirely with the teacher, you could ask the university to add an explanation to the reference they supply and to let you check this for accuracy before it is issued.

I hope the situation is resolved. Good newly-qualified teachers are too precious to be allowed to fall at the first hurdle. You may have students of your own to guide and you could be a head of the future. You need to experience fairness and to know how to get it.

Q School self-evaluation is growing apace at our place and I'm all for it. We have been observed teaching six times in the last half-term. The trouble is that I now have a list of areas for development but no one tells me exactly how to achieve them. I'm not the only one who is concerned, especially as we could have an inspection at short notice.

A You've had a lot of observations but, if these focus on specifics and are conducted positively by people you respect professionally, then everyone feels secure and growth takes place. The missing link in how your school is addressing improvement is the part f the cycle that concentrates on intervention and support. You don't need any more diagnosis for a while; it's time for the medicine.

Ask the senior management what overall evaluations they have made from the wealth of evidence gathered from the classrooms. Come to an agreement about which elements are the priorities and which of these can best be tackled by group training, courses, staff discussion or simply by consistency in implementing existing policy.

The school needs to be very clear about how it is making best use of the most effective elements of the teaching in the school, so ways of sharing and working in partnership need to be developed. As to your own developmental needs, sit with your key stage co-ordinator and select one or two areas from your list.

Reword these so that they become your targets. Agree what training or support you need and set a date by which you will feel confident about being observed again.

If you really want to impress the inspectors then design a simple form that records the above and repeat the exercise each term keeping all the evidence in one file. It's the senior managers' responsibility to see that your needs, those from whole school evaluation and the school development plan all tie in together. Try not to worry too much about forthcoming inspections, the real reason for pursuing improvement must be to improve standards for the children.

Q I'm becoming totally obsessed with a new teacher who has joined our staff. I get nervous if he is in the staffroom, giggle too loudly, knock things over and generally make a fool of myself. He is absolutely gorgeous but unfortunately he's four years younger than I am. What can I do?

A How refreshing it is to know that while the rest of the profession is grappling with targets, performance pay, the new curriculum and imminent inspection, hormones are racing round your staffroom defeating all such distractions.

Goodness gracious, woman, ask him for a date. The worst that can happen is that he refuses. As long as the whole business is conducted within professional boundaries at - and around - school you might as well enjoy it.

Send your problems to sue. write to her at tES Primary 66-68 east smithfield london e1W 1BX, or e-mail us at You can also leave hints about this month's problems at The TES Virtual Staffroom by visiting our website at

Sue Mulvany

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