They also fail...

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Nearly 30,000 teachers started their induction year last September. The vast majority were deemed good enough to be let loose in schools.

Unfortunately, 40 were judged not to have reached the required standards.

Of those, 20 chose to appeal against their education authority's decision.

Since the General Teaching Council took over such appeals in 2001, it has heard 44, allowed two, dismissed 20 and extended the induction for up to three terms in the other 22 cases.

"We are only talking about a very small proportion," says David James, the council's professional standards manager. "But the final failure of a teacher is irrevocable: there is no second chance once the appeal has been heard. So it is very important for people who might feel they have wasted three years of their life."

The GTC is concerned that teachers can only undergo induction once. It has taken up this issue with ministers, arguing that there ought to be more leniency - an opportunity for a retake, for instance.

"You have more than one chance to pass most exams," says Mr James. "If the teacher could find a school willing to give them a second chance, then why not?"

Failed teachers are informed of their right to appeal within 20 days of the notice. Hearings are heard in front of a panel of three GTC members. They take evidence from the appellant, the school, the local education authority and the teacher-training college. The panel might decide that there have been "important defects" in the induction period that have "seriously disadvantaged the appellant". Or there might be other "special circumstances", such as illness, contributing to the failure.

"Since the GTC has been hearing these appeals we have been able to identify the more common serious defects in the induction process and have fed-back to LEAs with regular bulletins and seminars with the lessons to be learnt," says Mr James.

One such deficiency is that induction co-ordinators and mentors might fail to signal the teacher's shortcomings at an early stage.

"In the first term schools want to give the benefit of the doubt and be supportive and encouraging without really highlighting problem areas. But by the spring term, if things don't get better, it's a bit late to try and identify the real issue. It's a question of consistent, honest and clear feedback right from the start."

But Mr James stresses that newly qualified teachers have to take responsibility for their induction.

"The whole essence is that the inductees are not passive. They have to ensure they know the framework and to what they are entitled," he says. "So if things do start to go wrong they know which buttons to press. It is in everybody's interest that they become successful teachers. No one is trying to fail them."

* In Wales, there are new regulations to make induction more flexible. NQTs can now work as short-term supply teachers for a maximum of five years after they gain QTS. Authorities are also free to decide when a period of teaching can count towards induction, and when an NQT can be regarded as completing a full induction period.

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