Union call for fair NQT deal

29th February 2008 at 00:00
NASUWT says schools should be fined if they neglect new staff

Tamsin Page, an English teacher at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, is one of the lucky ones: a newly qualified teacher who gets the support and free time to which she is entitled by law.

Yet elsewhere, NQTs are denied mentors and reduced timetables. They face the worst classes in schools which offer them no structured programme of support.

The NASUWT teachers' union has written to Jim Knight, the schools minister, to tell him what is happening in schools that don't meet their obligations to new staff.

Chris Keates, the union's general secretary, has called for fines to be imposed on offending schools.

Ms Page, 29, a teacher in Hinchingbrooke's English department, said: "I can't even imagine not having my induction and the half-day marking and preparation time. Schools are stretched, but NQTs shouldn't suffer because of that."

Di Beddow, deputy head of Hinchingbrooke, which has 14 NQTs this year, said the new staff made a vital contribution.

Since 1999, new teachers have had 10 statutory entitlements, including a 10 per cent reduction in teaching workload and extra time for lesson preparation. They should not have to teach outside the age range they have been trained for or be assigned classes with particularly challenging behavioural problems.

The union has been tracking a batch of young members. Half of the 50 teachers who came to a feedback session this month said they had no mentor or structured programme of support. The majority were given classes that were openly acknowledged to be difficult. And some only had temporary contracts "to ensure they were suitable for the job". Excessive classroom observation was also a complaint.

Other new teachers who spoke to The TES said they had been plunged in at the deep end.

Hannah, a new primary teacher, resigned at Christmas after poor support from her school. "On paper, I had everything I was entitled to, including the reduced timetable, but the quality of the mentoring was not very good," she said. "I was criticised all the time and she (my mentor) never noticed when I got something right."

Another teacher, from Stevenage in Hertfordshire, handed in her notice after six months in her first job. "I know what I am entitled to and my school has made little attempt to meet my needs," she said. "I teach a Year 5 class that is disruptive, rude, and many pupils have severe behavioural difficulties."

There are no official figures for drop-out rates, but 38,296 people qualified in 2005-06 and only 26,957 passed induction in the following year. As only 38 people failed their induction, this leaves 11,301 unaccounted for.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools denies that problems for new teachers are widespread, but said it will monitor the situation.

Other research suggests a more mixed picture. A survey of nearly 2,500 new teachers last year by Nottingham and Leeds universities and the Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute, found that the majority enjoyed teaching. But nearly a quarter had fewer than two hours' non-contact time a week.

A 2006 survey by the National Union of Teachers found "patchy" levels of support - 29 per cent expressed mixed or negative views.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Assoication of Head Teachers, said: "It is important not to blow this out of proportion: there are some counties running excellent NQT induction schemes."

Sara Bubb, an induction specialist at London's Institute of Education, analysed surveys of inner-London primary teachers between 2000 and 2006 and found a "positive correlation" between enjoyment of their first year in teaching and their school's adherence to the key statutory elements.

"I used to think of Ofsted inspectors as knights on white chargers, rescuing new teachers in distress," she said. "But they don't always give induction the priority it deserves and they can get things wrong. One of the schools with the worst record for supporting new teachers that I know of has been deemed outstanding. It employs vast numbers of NQTs, many of whom leave before the year is out."

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