Tough love for the new boys and girls;Briefing;Document of the week

8th May 1998 at 01:00
The probationary year has been revived by the Government. Nicolas Barnard reports on the latest rules andregulations likely to shape the lives of teaching's rawest recruits

The probation year is back - and this time it's serious. To coin a new Labour phrase, the new-look induction year due to be introduced in September 1999 will be a mix of pressure and support.

Support comes in the form of spelling out clearly what all newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) are entitled to in their first year of work.

The pressure is enshrined in a rigorous set of standards and the simple threat: shape up or you're (almost certainly) out. The profession's rawest recruits get only one shot at becoming fully-qualified - if they fail to measure up, they will have to train all over again.

Or, as the Department for Education and Employment's new consultation document, Induction for New Teachers, puts it: "There can and should be no place in the teaching profession for teachers who cannot play their full part in the drive to raise standards and performance across the system."

Probation years were abolished under the Tories by then education secretary Kenneth Clarke in 1992. He argued the move towards more school-based initial training made the induction year redundant.

But surveys have found new teachers unhappy with the amount of preparation they are given, and schools minister Estelle Morris says: "Too many of our new young teachers have simply been left to cope with the demands of the classroom, without the support and guidance they have a right to expect."

Ideally, new teachers will start induction immediately after training, and complete it in one school. But if they can only get temporary work they can build up their year from three terms in different schools.

If they suffer lengthy sickness or go on maternity leave they can make up the time at the end. In exceptional cases, such as a personality clash with their manager, they may change school mid-year.

New teachers should not face "unusual or unreasonable" demands such as classes larger or more unruly than typical for their school. They will teach only 90 per cent of the average contact time for other teachers at the school.

Each new teacher will leave training with a "career entry profile", written by the trainee, the training provider, and the line manager at his or her first school. It will set out targets and an action plan for the first year.

On top of that will be the general programme of "structured support, experience and further on-the-job training" (see clipboard) which all new teachers should receive.

Their line manager will be in charge of co-ordinating the programme and day-to-day assessment. They should meet at least monthly to discuss progress, with formal reviews once a term.

If at any time the line manager believes the new teacher is in danger of failing, the headteacher must be informed and the new recruit told in writing.

It is the head who will recommend to "an appropriate body" (most likely the local education authority) at the end of the year whether the new member of staff has met the national standards laid down by the Teacher Training Agency (see second clipboard) for Qualified Teacher Status.

That written recommendation will be based on an interview with the new teacher, a written report from the line manager, reports from mentors, pupils' results and inspectors' reports if Ofsted has visited during the year.

New teachers must meet all the standards - "to give them the benefit of the doubt or assume any outstanding shortcomings will be overcome by further experience would be to put at risk the education of pupils," the paper says.

The education authority can overturn the recommendation but must give a written reason based on the evidence. It can also exceptionally extend the induction for a second year.

Failed teachers can appeal to the General Teaching Council (once it is set up - until then an independent appeals panel established by the Education Secretary will sit).

New teachers in private schools need not go through induction - although the Government hopes they will. Those schools must teach the national curriculum, meet the same standards of induction and cover their own costs.

* Induction for New Teachers is available from the DFEE Publications Centre, PO Box 5050, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6YJ or by ringing 0845 6033360 or on the Internet at Comments must be made by June 19. Consultation on probation year for Welsh teachers will follow.

Briefing Document of the week 21

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