Vital rites of passage

10th October 2003 at 01:00
Tutors need to be up to speed with this term's new regulations

You're an induction tutor? Well done. It's a really worthwhile job at an exciting time but it carries huge responsibilities. You have to support newly qualified teachers, but you also have to monitor and assess them. At the end of each term, you and your headteacher have to complete an assessment form that is sent to the local education authority. You have to write about whether progress so far indicates that new teachers will meet the required standards. If at the end of the year they don't, and the local education authority agrees, the NQT will never be able to teach in the state sector. It's a draconian punishment but one that only happens to about one in 500.

The General Teaching Council has an appeals procedure and you can bet that your name will be hauled through the mud if things get to that stage. So, on my courses, I really emphasise the need for induction tutors to be accountable and keep records with the worst-case scenario in mind. The other snag is that most induction tutors are fairly senior in their school and wear an amazing number of hats. Though this is hugely advantageous in terms of skills, experience and clout, it becomes a problem in finding time to do the job.

Be absolutely clear about what needs to be done. Get yourself on a training course to get up to date with the new guidance from the Department for Education and Skills, the qualified teacher status (QTS) and induction standards, and the career entry and development profile - all new in September.

Remember that the overall responsibility for induction lies with headteachers. They are contractually obliged to give new teachers a 10 per cent lighter timetable than other staff - and a job that does not make unreasonable demands.

English local authorities used to give schools with new teachers pound;3,000 from Standards Fund 501. But since April 2003, the DfES has put the money for induction into the huge Education Formula Spending. Authorities in turn give it to schools. Those such as Lambeth have sensibly held back money so that they can still give pound;3,000 for each NQT. Most authorities, however, haven't earmarked or identified the money in any way.

Things are further complicated by the funding crisis brought about by rising salaries, pension and national insurance contributions.

Nevertheless, schools are legally obliged to provide all aspects of induction.

The career entry and development profile was introduced in the summer of 2003. It's not a record of objectives like its predecessor, but a process of discussion and reflection about professional development needs. There are no sheets for objectives within the profile: NQTs will need to have a professional portfolio.

You need to go through transition point 2 with your new teachers as soon as you can. Discuss their training, teaching practices and the classes and schools they encountered. Get a feel for their strengths and areas for development in the context of the final teaching practice. Then look at all this in the light of their context now - the pupils, room, support staff, other teachers - and how they can be helped to meet the QTS and induction standards.

New teachers need you to help them prioritise, looking at what they need to do in the short, medium and longer-term. These can then be turned into objectives for the NQT to work on. Keep these very specific with firm dates for when things should happen and review them half termly. Organise with the NQT an individualised programme of support and activities to help meet their objectives and the induction standards.

Get to grips with the new QTS and induction standards - the criteria that new teachers have to meet by the end of their first year. The standards are very demanding: they describe a perfect teacher rather than someone learning the trade. They're not much different to the threshold standards.

No one would argue with the need for the highest standards, but it seems to be akin to expecting someone leaving medical school to be a brain surgeon.

In a way, that is what NQTs have to be - they are expected to teach a class like the teacher next door who has 20 years' experience.

Realistically, what can we expect of someone at the start of their career? Ensure that the NQT is observed within the first four weeks of teaching and then every half term, with written and oral feedback. Though they find it stressful, NQTs consider this the most useful induction activity. Arrange for others, including the headteacher, to observe so that the judgement isn't just yours.

Your job is to support, monitor and assess. This takes a great deal of time - an hour or two week on average but it's a fantastic investment, so make sure your head gives you regular release time. Spread the load by involving other people. That way the NQT will be a really effective teacher and you'll stay sane!

Sara Bubb trains induction tutors at the Institute of Education, London, and in local education authorities and schools in England and Wales

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