NQT special: Standing up for your rights as a new teacher

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It is vital that new teachers know their rights and entitlements as they adjust to life at the chalkface. The NASUWT’s Chris Keates discusses the importance of supporting our NQTs and explains why and how the union is challenging government to help protec

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 introduction into the profession.

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, or it can be a disappointing and demoralising experience. 

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.

In England and Wales the range of statutory provisions which schools are required by law to provide include:

  • A reduction in timetabled teaching, in additional 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 an excellent start to professional development. Therefore, during the first year it is absolutely essential to have access to all of the statutory provisions.

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. 

While most 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, their experiences in other areas of provision can leave a great deal to be desired.

NQTs in primary schools regularly report that the statutory provision of a reduced timetable is not given. This often goes-hand-in-hand with a failure in schools to provide 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 has in the past often been eroded by activities such as cover which does not represent an effective use of teachers’ time. The contractual provisions are designed to protect teachers in maintained schools from cover.

Many NQTs welcome developmental and supportive classroom observation but too many report being observed, sometimes excessively so, with no feedback or constructive comment. 

Some are allocated classes of pupils who are known to exhibit extremely challenging behaviour even with the most experienced of teachers.

The NASUWT is deeply concerned that many of the reforms to education introduced by the coalition government are likely to seriously undermine the extent to which schools will be scrutinised to ensure they are abiding with their statutory responsibilities to NQTs. 

The NASUWT is seriously concerned that the reforms will place NQTs under pressure to forgo their statutory induction entitlements, undermining their ability to gain the skills and knowledge they need to progress as a teacher. 

NQTs need the confidence and security of a rigorous statutory framework which will ensure that they are managed effectively and positively and not in a way which chokes their enthusiasm and energy by failing to give them effective support during induction. 

We believe that provisions should be in place to ensure that in whatever school an NQT begins their career they have a consistent, high-quality experience.

NQTs work long and hard to secure qualified teacher status. It is an important qualification which is a cornerstone of the universal entitlement of all children and young people to be taught by a qualified teacher. 

It is deeply concerning that this requirement to secure qualified teacher status in order to teach in maintained schools has been removed by the coalition government in England.

This not only seriously undermines the right of all pupils to be taught by highly trained and skilled professionals, it also threatens teachers’ jobs in the future and makes it even more difficult for NQTs to secure employment if schools decide to opt for cheaper, unqualified personnel instead. 

This move is a further attack on the status of the profession and is based on the erroneous belief that “anyone can teach”. 

The NASUWT is deeply concerned that too many NQTs are placed on temporary contracts in their induction year – often for no other reason than “to see how they turn out”. This is unacceptable and disempowering for new teachers, as they fear poor reports and consequent job loss if they complain or raise concerns. 

Those who are working on supply may fare even worse. 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.

It is for these reasons that the NASUWT is campaigning 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 defend the teaching profession, the NASUWT launched its Standing up for Standards campaign, the principal aim of which is to defend and secure all the statutory provisions to which all teachers, including NQTs, are entitled and which contribute to raising standards for all children and young people. 

NASUWT members are engaged in continuous industrial action short of strike action in furtherance of our national trade dispute in defence of teachers’ pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs. 

Through their action, our members have been standing up for standards by defending teachers’ pay and working conditions which are inextricably linked to the provision of the highest quality of education. 

The NASUWT knows that understandably some NQTs may feel anxious about industrial action. But the union also knows that they recognise it is a demonstration of commitment to the students they teach that they want to join with other colleagues to fight for the entitlement of all young people to be taught by those who are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals, and to fight for working conditions which enable them to focus on teaching and learning.

It is because of this that our action is winning the hearts and minds of the public and parents and empowering teachers to stand up for their professionalism.

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.

NQT Special Edition
This article was published as part of SecEd's June 2013 NQT Special edition, produced in association with the NASUWT. The edition features eight pages of best practice and advisory articles aimed at supporting NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Download the free PDF of all eight pages here.


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