Teaching is one of the best, most satisfying and worthwhile of the professions. It is also highly demanding and challenging. For this reason, NQTs have a number of statutory and other entitlements, specifically designed to ensure that their induction year provides a structured and responsible introduction into the profession.
In England and Wales, the range of statutory provisions which schools are required by law to provide include:
A reduction in timetabled teaching, in addition to a contractual entitlement to 10 per cent guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.
Teaching only the age range or subject for which they have been trained.
An induction tutor or mentor.
Not routinely to have to teach classes or children with especially challenging discipline problems.
Teaching the same class(es) on a regular basis to establish a routine and a rapport with pupils.
Receiving regular feedback and support on progress.
The right to be given early warning of any perceived problems or difficulties with progress.
Professional and timely communication about judgements on performance.
The experience in that first and important year can be one where schools harness, use effectively and celebrate the enthusiasm, energy, commitment, new ideas and talent that NQTs bring to the role. This approach provides an excellent start to a career in teaching and it is therefore deeply disappointing when some NQTs report that their experience has been a demoralising one.
Fortunately, many NQTs report positively on the support they receive from more experienced colleagues, on the opportunities they are given to work regularly with the same classes, and on discussions with a nominated mentor – but there are times when their experiences in other areas of provision can leave a great deal to be desired.
The best schools recognise the importance of growing and supporting new teachers, and most importantly they recognise that they need support, encouragement and working conditions which enable them to gain appropriate experience in their first school placement.
The induction period is intended to lay firm and positive foundations and provide an excellent start to professional development. Therefore, during the first year it is absolutely essential to have access to all of the statutory provisions.
Unfortunately, NQTs, often in primary schools, do report that the statutory provision of a reduced timetable is not provided. This often goes hand-in-hand with a failure in schools to provide NQTs with their contractual PPA time, which, when taken together with their induction time, should result in a maximum of 80 per cent contact time.
In some cases, where time is allocated regularly, it is eroded by activities such as cover which is an activity outwith teachers’ contractual provisions. Unless they are employed as supply teachers, no teacher, including NQTs, should be directed by a school to cover on a regular basis. The contractual provisions are designed to protect teachers in maintained schools from cover, as this is not an effective use of a teacher’s time.
NQTs welcome developmental and supportive classroom observation, in which they meet with the observer prior to the lesson to discuss the focus of the observation and have verbal and written feedback afterwards which highlights all the positives observed and constructively details the areas for development.
It is the quality not quantity of classroom observation which is important and it is disappointing that there are still too many NQTs who report being observed, sometimes excessively so, with no feedback or constructive comment.
NQTs are entitled as part of their induction to have timetabled classes with which they can work on a regular basis to allow them to gain experience and build a rapport with the pupils. It is not acceptable for a NQT to be allocated classes of pupils who are known to exhibit extremely challenging behaviour even with the most experienced of teachers.
We encourage and seek regular feedback from NQTs to enable us to identify the specific challenges they are facing and provide the support and advice needed. One of our key concerns is to ensure that schools abide by their statutory responsibilities to NQTs. The union has an extensive network of support and provides comprehensive advice and guidance. Our NQT induction planner, which is free to members, guides NQTs through the induction year, giving useful prompts, tips and advice.
NQTs should be managed effectively and positively, harnessing their enthusiasm, energy and ideas.
The NASUWT believes that provisions should be in place to ensure that in whatever school an NQT begins their career, they have a consistent, high-quality experience which instils confidence and nurtures the passion new teachers need to continue in the profession.
An extremely worrying trend is for many NQTs to be placed on temporary contracts in their induction year; usually for schools to keep open their options on performance or the budget – or both. This is unacceptable and disempowering for new teachers, who undertake their induction year under the constant shadow of fear that their contract will not be renewed and made permanent.
This is disempowering, undermining their confidence and inhibiting their ability to engage professionally in their development.
Equally concerning is the number of NQTs who cannot find even a temporary placement for their induction year and who therefore work on supply. A recent NASUWT survey found that supply teachers are routinely denied access to training, have their pay and conditions entitlements flouted, and are routinely expected to teach outside their specialism or age range. This is no way for an NQT to begin their career.
The NASUWT has developed a programme to support supply teachers, including dedicated seminars and an online toolkit. The union recently launched SupplyAdvisor, a website which enables supply teachers to rate agencies and share valuable information about terms and conditions.
The growth in the use of temporary contracts and the increasing number of NQTs working on supply has underlined even more strongly the importance of the NASUWT’s campaign for a guaranteed placement for all NQTs in their induction year, a scheme which already works successfully for new teachers in Scotland.
In order to support NQTs and the profession in general, the NASUWT is continuing its Standing up for Standards campaign, a principle aim of which is to defend the statutory provisions to which all teachers, including NQTs, are entitled and which supports them in raising standards for all children and young people.
At the heart of the campaign is continuous industrial action short of strike action which has proved highly successful and which recently was key to securing the withdrawal of the proposals to remove teachers’ non-pay conditions, including holiday entitlement and PPA time.
Teachers’ pay and working conditions are inextricably linked to the provision of the highest quality of education and attacks on these are attacks on children and young people who are entitled to be taught by those who are recognised and regarded as highly skilled professionals and have working conditions which enable them to focus on teaching and learning.
While, understandably, some NQTs may feel anxious about industrial action, the NASUWT knows from our NQT members that they recognise it is a demonstration of commitment to the children and young people they teach and that they want to join with other colleagues to ensure that all children and young people benefit from the fact that teaching is an attractive and competitive profession, which not only attracts but also retains great teachers.
New teachers are the future of the education service and a precious resource not to be squandered. The NASUWT will continue to support, advise and defend them.
Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT.