Teaching is one of the best, most satisfying and worthwhile of the professions. It is also highly demanding and challenging.
There has been much recent political debate on qualified teacher status (QTS) following the coalition government’s decision to remove the requirement for all teachers to hold QTS in schools in England.
The NASUWT is quite clear that children and young people are entitled to be taught by qualified teachers and that when parents send their children to school they have a right to know they are being taught by qualified teachers. The removal of the requirement on schools to recruit qualified teachers undermines the status of the profession and compromises the quality of educational provision.
Teaching is a post-graduate profession and NQTs work hard to secure QTS. In recognition of the skill and talent required to become a teacher, NQTs have a number of statutory and other entitlements, specifically designed to ensure that their induction year provides a structured and high-quality 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 induction period is intended to lay firm and positive foundations and provide a positive start to professional development and a career in teaching.
While some NQTs have a positive and supportive experience, unfortunately others do not receive not only their induction entitlements, but also are denied fundamental and important contractual provisions such as guaranteed PPA time, which, when taken together with their induction time, should result in a reduction in timetabled teaching time of 20 per cent.
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 whom they can work on a regular basis to allow them to gain experience and build a rapport with 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.
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 which has increased in recent years is for NQTs to be placed on temporary contracts in their induction year; usually for schools to keep open their options on performance or budget (or both).
Induction should not be conducted under the constant shadow of fear that a contract will not be renewed and made permanent.
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 of supply teachers found that they 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. This is one of the key reasons why the NASUWT has developed a programme to support supply teachers, including dedicated seminars and “SupplyAdvisor”, a website that 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 our campaign for a guaranteed placement for all NQTs in their induction year, a scheme which already works successfully for new teachers in Scotland.
The NASUWT encourages and seeks regular feedback from NQTs to enable us to identify the specific challenges they are facing and provide the support and advice needed. 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. This is complemented by a programme of professional seminars for NQT members throughout their induction year. These events offer NQTs the opportunity to receive advice, support and professional development, as well as network with other NQTs from across the UK.
New teachers are the future of the education service and a precious resource not to be squandered. We will continue to support, advise and defend them.
Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT.