The teaching profession has taken quite a battering in recent years and I admire greatly those who are currently embarking on a career in the classroom, given the current educational climate.
Coupled with this we have the restructuring of the mechanisms and structures for training teachers and this has meant that many providers are delivering certain courses for student teachers for the first time.
All of this considered, beginning a career in teaching can seem a daunting prospect for an NQT, and consequently schools and academies have an even greater responsibility to ensure their induction programme is supportive, comprehensive and high-quality.
Below are some suggestions for effective induction strategies that will help NQTs and new members of teaching staff who are more experienced to make a successful start to their new job.
For me, the induction process begins when candidates apply for teaching positions within a school. Ensuring the candidates fully understand the context that the school is in, the direction in which it is heading and the culture of the organisation is important. Outlining the basics of how new staff and NQTs in particular are inducted will reassure those new to the profession that they will be supported and given ongoing professional development opportunities.
For any new teacher, visiting a new school before the end of term is a useful way of finding out about policies, practices and getting down to the “nuts and bolts” of what will be expected on the first day of work.
Induction days should be offered to any new starters, especially NQTs, and ideally involve some safeguarding training, guidance on important policies, and staff codes of conduct, as well as the basics of timetables, dress code, payment etc.
Allocating time within the department that the new staff are joining is also advisable and this can be either observing and supporting in lessons or being walked through the curriculum model, schemes of work and assessment frameworks by the head of department.
Any new member of staff in a school should be invited to attend a series of induction meetings, certainly for the first half-term of their service, and for NQTs this should be an ongoing expectation throughout their first year.
The member of staff responsible for induction should ensure these times and dates are on the school calendar and set out agendas for each meeting. New staff will need clear guidance on the policies and practices of the institution and it is important they have a “sounding board” in the form of the induction mentor so they can check they are applying these correctly.
Once the new staff are proficient with the application of policies then these meetings can take on the form of sharing of good practices, techniques and resources. This is especially useful when there are a variety of new staff from different departments so that cross-curricular practices can be shared.
Regular and varied observations
It is good practice to observe NQTs every half-term to ensure they are making satisfactory progress towards the Teachers’ Standards in order for them to pass their NQT year.
Although the induction mentor may not be a specialist in the subject the NQT is teaching, they should be providing specific guidance on the general teaching practices observed. It is good to have a blend of subject specialists and non-specialists observing NQTs so that they get feedback from a variety of sources, although it is essential that the judgements of observers have been previously moderated in order for a consistent approach.
Additionally, NQTs and other new staff should be given the opportunity to observe the top practitioners in the school. I always give new staff the opportunity to observe “good” and “outstanding” teaching both within their subject and outside it.
I often find that observing subjects with which they are unfamiliar is often the most valuable exercise throughout the entire induction process as teachers see such a huge variety of teaching styles and techniques and they go away from the observations buzzing with excitement about how they can adapt the practices observed within their own lessons.
Occasionally, where there are multiple new starters or NQTs, we will all observe a lesson from an “outstanding” teacher together, and then spend an hour after-school or at lunch-time discussing it as a group. This is an excellent way of helping inexperienced staff become more analytical of teaching in general, but also reflective of their own practices.
I have found that the most effective induction tool however, has been using video to enable the NQTs to review their own practice and reflect on their teaching. There are numerous packages available for schools to invest in, and they are most definitely worthwhile if you are serious about establishing a culture of continual improvement among teachers.
However, if there are insufficient funds to invest in such technology, then simply using a camcorder in a fixed location of a classroom, or even asking a student to film the lesson, is a cost-effective way of capturing lessons on film.
The initial apprehension teachers might have about this are usually based around hearing the sound of their own voice or how they look, but it is important to reassure them the process is purely for them to move their practice forwards.
Dedicating the time to meet with the teacher being filmed is important so that a professional dialogue can occur about the lesson, and I would strongly recommend that these types of observations are “non-judgemental” (in that a grade is not necessarily attributed to the lesson and that is doesn’t contribute towards appraisals or NQT assessments) so that the process is recognised by all as purely a coaching mechanism aimed at improving standards in the classroom.
Embarking on a new teaching job at any school can be daunting, and for NQTs entering the profession there has never been a more challenging time to become a teacher. However, we do have an incredibly rewarding job and the difference that a good teacher can make to the life chances of a young person should not be underestimated.
It is therefore our responsibility as school leaders to ensure that for those teachers at the outset of their careers we provide a positive start for them via a supportive and comprehensive induction programme.
Ben Solly is vice-principal at Long Field Academy in Melton Mowbray. You can follow him on Twitter @ben_solly