On your marks

19th November 2004 at 00:00
Meeting the QTS standards can be demanding. Sara Bubb offers advice to new teachers facing their first assessment next month

Just when you're on your knees with end of term exhaustion and panicking about Christmas shopping, you'll face your first assessment. The processes are similar whether you're on a training course or on induction as a newly qualified teacher (NQT). You'll be judged on how you're meeting the qualified teacher status (QTS) standards which set out what you must know, understand and be able to do.

There are 42 standards in England - Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own versions. For induction, NQTs in England have to meet all of them, again "consistently and with increasing professional competence", as well as the six induction standards. You have to demonstrate that you meet all of them.

Meeting the standards

Don't panic: you'll have been planning, teaching, assessing, managing pupils, using individual education plans, working with support staff, talking to parents, implementing school policies and taking an active part in your professional development.

Trainees will have been told what level of evidence they need to collect.

NQTs are flying solo doing the job for real so the evidence is clear to see in all they do and what others have written from the half-termly observations and reviews.

Let's have a look at two of them. The first standard requires you to have "high expectations of all pupils; respect their social, cultural, linguistic, religious and ethnic backgrounds; and (be) committed to raising their educational achievement".

How do you demonstrate that? It's in everything you do: what you expect of the pupils and what you let them get away with. Think about how you respond to kids who call out, chat, chew gum and swear. Some pupils are praised and rewarded for producing work that they know they've put no effort into and which isn't any good. False praise does not win you anything. You must have high expectations.

For standard 1.3, you have to demonstrate and promote the positive values, attitudes and behaviour that you expect from your pupils. Shelley is a shining example: always bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Everything in her reception class is beautiful. The resources are well organised and clean; displays are fantastic. This lifts the spirits of the children and adults in the room - you can see them all doing their best.

Other teachers' rooms can be a mess. Some teachers nag at pupils about uniform when they themselves look scruffy.

What should happen

Schools are busy at the end of term, so agree the date and time in the diary for your assessment meeting with the relevant people. The process should give you and others a clear picture of how you're doing. It's great to have your progress officially recorded and know what you've got to work harder at. If you aren't making satisfactory progress, the assessment report and meeting should mean that you're clear about what you have to do to improve.

Accepting criticism

Nick felt his marking was criticised unfairly in standard 3.2.2: "Before writing the report, my mentor looked at two sets of books, one of which she thought was marked well but the other set was unacceptable. The books were from a class that I struggle to get any work out of."

Make sure you are happy with what is written - that it is a fair reflection of you and your work. Don't be scared to suggest additions or revisions to the wording. Accept criticism positively - it's almost always intended to help.

However, Cara had a shock when she read her teaching practice report. The school used the report for having a go at her rather than doing it face-to-face so there was no opportunity for her to defend herself. She was criticised under standard 1.5, which is about sharing in the corporate life of the school, because she didn't spend time in the staffroom. She thought she was doing the right thing by using free time to prepare and keep on top of marking, but her mentor felt differently and didn't have the guts to say so to her.

Another trainee, Yve, regularly went home during her non-contact time. Her university tutor had a fit when she heard about this, but to Yve it seemed the best place to get work done. Instead of telling her why this was not acceptable, the mentor said nothing but then wrote about her unprofessional behaviour in the assessment report.

Your written report

Training providers will give guidance on what they want mentors to cover and have different formats for reports. The termly assessment reports for induction have to be written on standard DfES-designed forms that are sent to the local education authority. Most reports are well written and give a clear picture of how people are doing against the standards.

Occasionally, what has been written about the new teacher appears to bear little resemblance to reality. One school with a bumper crop of newly qualified teachers mass-produced the assessments. In most, they remembered to change the pronouns, although Jane wasn't so pleased when she read that "his" control was good!

An induction tutor in another school completed all the paperwork for two terms on Claire's last day. She said, "I was just handed the reports and told to sign them. It wasn't even the original paperwork - they had none in stock and so requested faxed copies from another school and it printed off on the old style shiny fax roll, complete with another school's details across the top."

This is sloppy. Make sure your report is well written. Check for typographical and spelling mistakes, ungrammatical sentences and misplaced apostrophes.

Sara Bubb's 'Insider's Guide for New Teachers', is published by 'The TES'

and RoutledgeFalmer (pound;12.99)

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