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 and the best possible start to their career.
The experience in that first, crucially 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 unfortunately in some cases be a disappointing and demoralising experience.
The best schools recognise the importance of growing and supporting new teachers and most importantly these schools recognise that they need support, encouragement and working conditions which enable them to gain appropriate experience and confidence 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 addition to a contractual entitlement to 10 per cent guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment time.
Ensuring that the NQT teaches only the age range or subject for which they have been trained.
An induction tutor or mentor.
Not routinely having 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.
Being given early warning of any perceived problems or difficulties with progress.
Judgements on performance communicated in a professional and timely manner.
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 the union to identify the specific challenges they are facing and target and provide the support and advice needed.
The union offers free seminars across the whole of the UK during August to prepare NQTs for their first teaching post. Follow-up seminars are provided throughout their induction year which are opportunities for networking, sharing experiences on induction and professional development.
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 in the age range or subject in which they had been trained, and on discussions with a nominated mentor, their experiences in other areas of provision can leave a great deal to be desired.
NQTs regularly report that the statutory provision of a reduced timetable is not provided. This often goes hand-in-hand with a failure to provide their contractual planning, preparation and assessment time, which, when taken together with their induction time, should result in a maximum of 80 per cent contact time.
NQTs are entitled to supportive and developmental classroom observation but many report being observed, sometimes excessively so, with no feedback or constructive comment.
The statutory rights and entitlements are provided for very good reasons. Someone new to the profession needs such provisions to enable them to become a confident and effective teacher. Employers who fail to provide these are squandering a precious resource and doing a grave disservice to children and young people by potentially depriving the profession of new, talented teachers.
The coalition government’s reforms to arrangements for induction which, while not altering any of the contractual provisions to which NQTs are entitled, seriously undermine the extent to which schools will be scrutinised to ensure they are abiding by their statutory responsibilities.
We are seriously concerned that NQTs will be denied their statutory induction entitlements, undermining their ability to gain the skills and knowledge they need to progress as an effective teacher.
Management of NQTs in a way which chokes their enthusiasm and energy by failing to give them the support during induction to which they are contractually entitled should be a thing of the past, but the reforms being introduced threaten to undo all of this important progress.
The drive to expand the number of academies and free schools in England, with flexibility over contractual provisions and real terms cuts in school budgets also threatens the ability of the education system to provide NQTs with the supportive framework at the start of their careers that they expect and deserve.
The universal entitlement of all children and young people to be taught by a qualified teacher has been removed. Not only does this seriously undermine the right of all pupils to be taught by trained and skilled professionals, it also could also make it even more difficult for NQTs to secure employment if schools decide to opt for cheaper, unqualified personnel instead.
The increasingly adversarial climate in which teachers find themselves has led to an increase in the poor practice of NQTs being placed on temporary contracts, often for no other reason than “to see how they turn out”.
This is extremely disempowering for new teachers, as they fear poor reports and consequent job loss if they complain or raise concerns. Those who have been unable to access a placement for their induction year and are forced to work on supply often fare even worse, which is why the NASUWT continues to campaign for the Scottish model of a guaranteed placement for the induction year to apply across the UK.
As a result of these attacks on the profession and teacher professionalism, the NASUWT is engaged in its Standing up for Standards campaign, a principal aim of which is to secure all the statutory provisions to which all teachers, including those who are newly qualified, 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 trade dispute with ministers in defence of teachers’ pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs.
Through their action, our members have been standing up for standards as teachers’ pay and working conditions are inextricably linked to the provision of the highest quality of education.
The action short of strike action has been deliberately designed to be pupil, parent and public-friendly. It has also been designed to ensure that it is entirely compatible with NQTs completing their induction successfully.
This action is winning the hearts and minds of parents and the public across the UK and is supporting teachers to enable them to focus on teaching and leading and managing learning.
The NASUWT and its members have not entered into industrial action lightly but believe that the future of the teaching profession and the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers is being threatened by the government’s unprecedented and relentless attacks on the profession.
The NASUWT believes teachers are a precious resource not to be squandered and will continue to fight to defend the profession for the current and future generations of NQTs.
Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT.
Free best practice download for NQTs This article has been published as part of SecEd's autumn 2012 NQT special focus, which comprises a range of best practice and advisory articles aimed at new teachers as they approach the end of their first term at the chalkface. The special focus has been supported by the NASUWT and you can download a free PDF containing all the articles from the Supplements section of this website by clicking here.