Teaching is one of the best, most satisfying and worthwhile of the professions. It is also highly demanding and challenging. For this reason NQTs in the UK 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 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 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.
• To be given early warning of any perceived problems or difficulties with progress.
• Judgements on performance must also be communicated in a professional and timely manner.
• In Scotland, newly qualified professionals receive a guaranteed placement in their induction year.
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, UK-wide seminars during August to prepare NQTs for their first teaching post, with follow-up seminars throughout their induction year to provide 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 is planning reforms to arrangements for induction which, while not altering any of the contractual provisions to which NQTs are entitled, will seriously undermine the extent to which schools will be scrutinised to ensure they are abiding by their statutory responsibilities.
The NASUWT is 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 a 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 by the coalition government are threatening to undo all of this important progress.
The poor practice is continuing of NQTs being placed on temporary contracts, often for no other reason that “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 we are campaigning for the Scottish model of a guaranteed placement for the induction year to apply across the UK.
The NASUWT encourages NQTs to seek support and advice if they are experiencing difficulties. Poor management practices should not be allowed to drive talented new teachers out of their chosen career.