You want to hold their hands?

As an induction tutor you're an NQT's best friend. Just don't forget your hat, advises Sara Bubb

So you've been asked to be an induction tutor. Congratulations - it's a terrific job. Indeed, according to our research at the Institute of Education in London into the effectiveness of statutory induction in schools in England, most teachers who are also induction tutors find great satisfaction in this role. Most said it was worthwhile and rewarding, and most NQTs had nothing but praise for the support they received. Some induction tutors even said it was the part of their job they liked best.

Herein lies the snag, though. Induction tutors are usually senior members of staff - they have the necessary skills and experience - who don't always have time to do the job properly. If you're typical of the majority of induction tutors who completed our questionnaires, you'll be busy and wear an amazing number of hats. And you'll probably feel guilty about not fulfilling the role properly.

Be clear about what needs to be done, and by whom, remembering that the overall responsibility for induction lies with the headteacher. Get to grips with the terminology, including such phrases as "appropriate body". This is not the kind of figure we'd all like to possess, but the term for the role played by local education authorities and the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel (Isctip) in assessing induction and sending the names of people who pass or fail to the General Teaching Council and Department for Education and Skills.

For induction in England, tutors must:

* Ensure the NQT has a 10 per cent lighter timetable than other staff - usually a regular half-day out of the classroom or extra free periods. One in five NQTs in our research failed to get their full entitlement, and were understandably bitter.

* Check that the new teacher is not given a job that makes unreasonable demands, such as teaching the worst class(es).

* Discuss career entry profile (CEP). Most people considered this the least useful part of induction, but our report for the DfES (see footnote) recommends that the strengths and areas for development identified during training should be used as guidelines by employers rather than followed slavishly.

* Get to grips with the induction standards - the criteria NQTs have to meet by the end of their first year. If they don't, they will never be allowed to teach in a maintained school or non-maintained special school.

* Set objectives with the NQT and review them half-termly. Where this worked well with our sample group, action plans were more comprehensive than expected, and progress notes and reviews were written alongside.

* Organise with the NQT an individualised programme of support and activities to help meet personal objectives and the induction standards. You can also make use of courses, but make sure they build on initial training rather than impose a rigid model. Our research found that NQTs considered observing the classroom practice of other teachers in their own and other schools useful, although two-thirds only did so more than once.

* Ensure that the NQT is observed every six to eight weeks, with written and oral feedback. Though they found it stressful, NQTs considered this the most useful induction activity. Arrange for others, including the headteacher, to observe so that the judgment on how the NQT is progressing isn't just yours.

* Hold an assessment meeting to discuss and write the termly reports that are sent off to the LEA or Isctip as "appropriate bodies".

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

Sara Bubb works at the Institute of Education. Improving Induction: research-based best practice for schools by Sara Bubb, Ruth Heilbronn, Cath Jones, Michael Totterdell and Maxine Bailey is published by Routledge Falmer, pound;19.99. The DfES report Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Statutory Arrangements for the Induction of Newly Qualified Teachers (RR 338) is published by the DfES and available to download at uploadfilesRR338.pdf

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