Case study

Induction information for Tutors and Mentors

Paul Nials – Senior Teacher and Induction Tutor, Portsmouth Grammar School.

Role of the Induction Tutor

I suspect that you will be reading this account because your school has recently appointed a NQT to start in September and you have been asked to either mentor the newly qualified member of staff or to act as the Induction Tutor (IT). In both cases, the prospect can seem quite daunting and you will have a number of questions: What does the role entail, what should I do and also equally importantly, how much time will it all take? Whilst there are no definitive answers to any of these questions, my experiences in the role over the past eight years may give you some insight.

I actually volunteered for the role of IT when the TDA/DfEE extended the power to confer QTS to teachers in the independent sector to ISCtip in 1999. I was keen to transfer my experience gained through mentoring PGCE Trainees for the OU and two local universities to newly qualified teachers joining my own school. My involvement with Initial Teacher Training (ITT) meant that I had experience of assessing PGCE trainees against standards and knowledge of accumulating evidence to show how these standards had been met. This raises the first point of note – unless your school is involved in ITT, with either PGCE or GTP trainees, then you may become the only person within your school who has an understanding of “Teaching Standards” and how to apply them. Indeed even recently qualified teachers may not recognise the new standards which were introduced in September 2007, with their increased emphasis on reflective practice and personal professional development. So, if you don’t have ITT experience how do you acquire this knowledge? By attending an ISCtip Conference for inexperienced mentors, of course!

I can honestly say that the job itself is one of the most rewarding that I have undertaken in my 28 years of teaching. It confers a responsibility to offer ongoing training and professional support to a new entrant to the profession and there is no doubt that if it is done well, it will benefit your school greatly in terms of recruitment and retention of staff. The IT has to facilitate the NQT’s transition from being on a 50% timetable, with no additional responsibilities, underpinned by a constant level of support, to teaching a 90% timetable in their first job with all the other attendant duties that go with it. In order to achieve this, a tailored programme of targeted support which enables the NQT to integrate the demands of both the pastoral and academic requirements of the job is needed. This raises the first interesting point: As an IT you will be responsible for offering support whilst formally assessing the NQT’s progress. I have found that these seemingly mutually exclusive requirements can be reconciled by gaining the NQT’s trust and allowing an open, professional dialogue to occur from the outset. Needless to say, careful introduction and induction into the working practices of the school is important for the settlement of new staff. I always try to empathise by recounting what I wish someone had told me on my first day in school! This, coupled with a clear, structured formal induction programme covering all aspects of school routine, delivered at the most appropriate times throughout the first term has proven to be invaluable.

One area where NQTs appear to be underprepared for life in school is in the provision of pastoral care. Careful guidance in this area is often required in the first term, as is monitoring of how the new entrant uses the 10% timetabled remission that they are guaranteed throughout their induction year. In addition to the usual round of lesson observations by and of the NQTs, I have found informal paired teacher-buddy arrangements to be beneficial. These can be worked out across different subject areas through the teaching of groups shared with more experience colleagues. If more than one NQT has joined the school, peer observations of lessons and structured support meetings of all NQTs can also be helpful.

One source of anxiety often cited by NQTs and mentors alike, is the need for the gathering of evidence to show that the Teaching Standards have been met. For the inexperienced IT, this can be a bit of a headache as there is no definitive guidance on the amount and nature of evidence required. However, inflexible rules would be of little use as each school, and the NQT’s role within it, presents a unique set of circumstances. What I would say is that evidence gathering does not have to be arduous as long as it is continuous and methodical. NQTs need to be apprised of the need to collect and collate evidence against standards as soon as possible. I have found the evidence tracking documents present in most PGCE training assessment folders extremely useful for this purpose – clear and robust evidence trails will help the Induction Year pass uneventfully for all concerned. That said, I always try to remember the TDA mantra regarding induction – it’s about “Process not paperwork” – ie what is gained from induction is the most important aspect of the year.

In addition to the formal meetings and assessments, I find the opportunity to get to know new young entrants to the profession extremely rewarding. A thorough working knowledge of each of their interests and backgrounds allow insightful glimpses into how to support each NQT professionally. However, overt prying would be unwelcome and intrusive and I prefer to make time to get to know each of them individually – chats over lunch and coffee can be time invested wisely. In conclusion, you will find the role of IT time consuming, occasionally frustrating but always fulfilling – I wish you luck!