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tc spring 2010

foundations for teaching careers





Variety pack: Finding the right school for your Nqt year

Interview tips: a headteacher's advice on how to stand out

best foot forward: making the most of your induction period

Opportunity knocks: how to start to climb the career ladder

all sides lining up Over £400 million will have been ploughed into National Challenge between 2008 to 2011 to solve the challenge of raising standards in schools. We report on one success story from south London

By Sarah Jewell


ational Challenge is an ambitious programme set up by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to try and raise standards in schools. The aim is to ensure that at least 30 per cent of pupils in every maintained secondary school and academy in England achieves at least five higher-grade GCSEs, including English and maths, by 2011. To do this the programme is getting behind the efforts of schools and ministers will have ploughed £400m into National Challenge between 2008 and 2011 in an effort to ensure that all schools are at or above the 30 per cent target. Schools that fail to improve will be closed down, turned into academies or, at the very least, paired with a “stronger” school.

Extra funding

In a recent announcement the Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker, said “Radical solutions such as National Challenge trusts and federations offer schools fresh impetus to maintain their mission to raise standards.” The extra funding, he said, will help secure and sustain improvement for these schools and the innovative improvement plans will “target extra resources that support leaderships teams and their development, focus on maths and English and help track pupils to achieve their full potential”. National Challenge trusts and federations are being set up to enable schools to improve their results. The National Challenge trust aims to transform a school’s performance by joining with an education partner and the trust will appoint a majority of the schools’ governing body. A National Challenge federation involves two or more schools coming together under one governing body and sharing the benefits of partnership, including shared teachers, resources and economies of scale. Coaker believes that the partner schools in these federations and trusts “often gain as much from these partnerships as the National Challenge schools they are linked with”. So far the programme is delivering results and the latest GCSE results confirm more schools than ever reached the benchmark of 30 per cent of pupils gaining five good GCSEs including maths and English. The number of National Challenge schools has dropped from 439 to 247 this year and from around 1,600 in 1997. There has been opposition to the programme as being too critical and some teachers have said it has labelled their schools “failures”, when they have spent years adding value and producing success from a difficult catchment of children. The

extra money is welcome, however, as are the advisers, but the concentration on raw results to the detriment of all other indicators, the critics says, is flawed. Others argue that National Challenge schools have become obsessed with the 30 per cent target and concentrate exclusively on those about to take their GCSEs or those on the D/C grade borderline, rather than pushing the brightest or helping the weakest. One National Challenge School where the headteacher is making a huge difference is Lilian Baylis Technology College in Lambeth, south London. Headteacher Gary Phillips has turned the school around from being at the bottom of the pile to hitting and exceeding the 30 per cent benchmark and Lilian Baylis has been the most improved school in Lambeth for two years running. Phillips records how the school improves its results in a series of videos produced for Teachers TV, called The Challenge.

Dynamic leader

The school has serious issues to deal with among its intake of pupils of whom 80 per cent are eligible for free school meals, so whose families are living on very low income; 90 per cent are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and only 40 per cent of pupils joining the school have reached the national average for English, whereas nationally it is closer to 80 per cent. Phillips is a dynamic leader who knows all the pupils and parents by name and his vision for the school has seen standards and results rise. To help improve pupils’ teaching and learning Phillips has recruited a dedicated team of learning support advisers, pastoral staff and also works with Kid’s Company, the children’s charity, to deal with issues that children might be having at home. He also employed a new head of music, Michelle Jacques, who worked hard to find

a way to engage the pupils with music, as she explains: “the students were not enjoying the music curriculum and as a result we had behavioural issues, so I introduced a more popular style and now we teach everything from drums to trombone, trumpet, guitar, singing, jazz band and rock.” At the beginning of the new autumn term Phillips gives a talk to the new year 7s and has an important message “you will find out as time goes on about the amazing opportunities that you will have at this school – last year 50 per cent of our students left here with five A-Cs.” But after the talk Phillips makes the point that as much as he is telling the pupils about the opportunities that lie ahead, he is also talking to the teachers: “they know school is about transforming life chances but they need to keep telling our pupils that”.

The teachers know school is about transforming life chances but they need to keep telling our pupils that


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09/03/2010 10:33:04

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foundations for teaching careers

find the right school for you By Jessica Moore


hen you take up your first teaching role, my advice would be to choose your school very wisely”, says Nicolette Prescott, a Year 2 NQT at a primary in East Sussex. In her experience, schools differ dramatically, not only in attainment, but also in efficiency and ethos. “Every day you get up and go to work. You probably spend as much time at school as you do at home, and talk to your colleagues as much as you talk to the people you live with. So, if you think about it, it’s really important that you’re comfortable in your working environment. You wouldn’t buy a flat unless you felt at home there”, she adds. “The same should go for choosing your workplace”.

When finding your first post as an NQT, it's important to choose your school carefully. But what exactly should you be looking for?

Research your choice

Interviewers want to know that you're paying attention to their school and thinking about how you might fit in there

So, when you see a suitable position advertised, do your research. Two very easy things to do from the comfort of your living room are to look at the school’s website, and to read their Ofsted reports. Then visit the school, if you can. “Some are more inviting than others”, admits Rosemary Leeke, head teacher at South Camden Community School in London. “We hold an open morning every week, and ask students or teaching staff to show prospective new teachers around the school.” She strongly recommends such tours. “Having a chance to walk around the school might well give you a bit of background and help you decide whether you want to work there.” School tours may also provide an opportunity to talk to teachers and students. Tact is important here: don’t fire a list of your concerns at them. Rather, pay close attention when they talk and pick up on what they say. If, for example, a teacher mentions discipline issues, ask what the school policy is for dealing with them. “In certain schools, you can spend a lot of your time and energy sorting out unruly students rather that focusing on the teaching”, says Eliza Sayers, who teaches secondary science in Bristol. “But if you work in a school where they have good systems of dealing with bad behaviour, it doesn’t become an overwhelming issue.” Generally, Sayers believes there’s a certain camaraderie between teachers. “We are usually willing to talk quite openly and frankly about the procedures in place in our school – although you might have to read between the lines a little!” she says. Remember too that the teachers and students are assessing you every bit as much as you’re assessing them. “We don’t ask for feedback from the

tours”, stresses Leeke, “but sometimes we do get it from the students showing prospective teachers around.” If you get shortlisted for a role, keep your eyes and ears open on the day of your interview too, Leeke adds: “Whether or not they’ve already had a look round, we get students to give candidates a tour on the day. Use those tours in the interview. Talk about what you saw, what you liked, and anything that raised questions for you. Interviewers want to know that you’re paying attention to their school and thinking about how you might fit in there”. But don’t rely on visits alone, warns Prescott. “You only have a small amount of time when you go for interview to look round a school, so try to do a bit of research too. Your impression of the head and management team is really important, because they are everything in a school”. Local contacts are perhaps the best resource of all here. “If you train in the area you then work in, it’s possible that you know

people who can advise you about the school. Teaching can be a small world. Ask people from your course if they know anything or have had any experience there. See if anyone you know has friends with kids there, too – parents can offer different insights”.

Don't rush in

Overall, remember your worth. “It’s easy to grab the first job you’re offered – especially at the moment, where anyone with a job considers themselves one of the lucky ones”, says Sayers. “But even in a recession, teachers are in demand. If you’re good enough to be offered one job, you’re good enough to get another. So if you’re not convinced the role you’re offered is right for you, don’t feel you have to take it”. Don’t assume all schools are the same either: they can be run very differently and place very different demands on staff. Weigh up the pros and cons of the vacancies advertised and write a list of your

priorities. Think about the size of the school and the classes. Look at the environment and facilities. Consider its intake – is it mixed or single sex? Is it a faith school? Does the school have a particularly high or a particularly low number of children on free school meals? What about the mix of languages spoken, and the balance of abilities and needs? Also, look at the type of school and any special features or status, such as a technology college or a sports college. Ask what support is offered to new and recently qualified teachers. You might find that the school that is a fiveminute walk from your doorstep is less suited to your teaching style than another a short commute away. “Don’t forget to consider who you are and what you want out of your career”, says Prescott. “If you make an ill-informed or badly researched decision now, you may end up having a tougher first year than you need to. It’s worth putting some time and effort into your research”.

getting the best out of every pupil By Jessica Moore


hen James Router took his first PE class as a secondary NQT in Sussex, he was surprised to find himself challenged not by the school environment, or by his students’ unruly behaviour, or even by demanding colleagues. “What I found difficult was catering for the range of abilities in my classroom”, he says. “I had kids who spent hours outside school fine-tuning their sports skills, kids who just weren’t interested, and – even harder– kids who desperately wanted to be great at sports but who lacked the skills or confidence. Differences in ability are particularly evident in PE, because the kids can’t hide their work in a book”, Router acknowledges, “but, from speaking to teacher friends and colleagues, I think it’s tricky in any subject area”.

Reflection of society

TC™ is published by Educate Ltd, 84 Great Suffolk Street, London, SE1 0BE. The opinions in the articles are those of the individual writers and not necessarily of Educate Ltd or any associated personnel.

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According to Dr David Spendlove, director of secondary PGCE at Manchester University’s School of Education, the problem starts when we use the wrong terminology. “We shouldn’t talk about ‘mixed ability’ classes, but random ability classes”, he says. “Mixed ability would be taking two of this type of student, two of this type, two of this type and putting them together. Random ability means you could get a class full of outstanding children, or you could get a class full of very vulnerable

children. Therefore, it shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing. It is not a punishment to be asked to teach a mixed ability class, it’s a reflection of the true demographic of society, and it’s very democratic.” That said, Spendlove admits that it’s no easy hurdle to leap. “Teaching a range of abilities is daunting for a new teacher, because it’s difficult to cater for that diversity.” However, getting ‘random ability’ teaching right is crucial. “Being a teacher is not just about getting results, it’s about educating children on far more sensitive levels, like working with people and living with people of different needs and abilities. It’s about raising everyone’s performance. A successful teacher can do that. And differentiation is absolutely essential to good teaching”, says Spendlove. This is a term you will have heard on your Initial Teacher Training. Spendlove explains: “There’s an old Snoopy cartoon where Charlie Brown says ‘I’ve taught my dog to whistle’ and the kids say ‘show me’ and he says ‘well, he hasn’t actually learnt’. The true test of teaching is whether or not your students have learnt – and differentiation enables you to adjust what you teach so that every individual within a class can learn something. It means adapting your teaching to encompass as wide a range of abilities as possible. If you’re not differentiating your teaching, you’re probably only teaching to a very small proportion of your class.” The challenge for NQTs is how to do it. There is a variety of ways in which teachers can differentiate a lesson. You might not necessarily start all the children in your class in

the same place, and you might not necessarily expect them to end in the same place; you might differentiate by task – so some children work on one task while others work on another; you might do it by ‘stepped activities’ where once your students complete a task, they can move onto another, more challenging task; you might do it by outcome, where you can have a very open task and children can go in any direction according to their ability. A lot depends on the subject and age. “And none of this is new”, adds Spendlove, “it’s just daunting for new teachers.”

Plan ahead

Joanna Leigh is a primary school language support teacher in the London Borough of Brent. She has over 30 years teaching experience, working with four- to 11-year-olds of different abilities and circumstances. “It’s about process rather than product – meaning that every child in a mixed ability class can do the same lesson, but the teacher has different expectations of each”, she says. “How you group children in also very important. It’s good to have mixed groups, so the children can help and support each other, but also because they will all bring different ideas and outlooks. If you give children in mixed ability groups different roles, you can make sure they’re all actively contributing and learning.” Spendlove offers further advice: “In your planning, think about the most able and the least able students and how you can challenge each extreme. No child should slip through the net.” Practical techniques include ‘targeted intervention’ and ‘targeted questioning’. “This is where you’d start a

lesson with the intention to intervene with a specific child. So half way through, you might directly give that child a role to involve them in the task, or you might ask them to sit with you and go through their work. It’s diagnostic: you teach everyone according to their particular needs.” In many mainstream classrooms, there may also be children with special educational needs. “In the early stages of their careers, teachers need support in knowing who to turn to and how to work with children whose needs may not fall within the usual range”, says Jeff Cull, Head of NQT Induction and MTL Coaching at the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). “It’s important to seek support from the school Special Education Needs Co-ordinator [SENCO], and other professionals as this is something that teachers, especially new teachers, may need more support in dealing with.” Above all, says Leigh, mixed ability teaching supports the less able students without holding back the more able ones. “It demands talk, because in order to consolidate a concept, or to know you know it, you have to talk it through. Less able children can often say or do very apposite things that more ‘intellectual’ kids might not. They have different strengths and can contribute different things. The aim is that there should be contribution from children of all abilities, and that each child can put their ideas forward to benefit the whole class”. Overall, the message is clear: “Teaching mixed ability groups is difficult, but it is worth it”.

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foundations for teaching careers

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ou are the new kid on the block. Your shoes are too shiny, you’re eager to please and desperate for friends. Even if you’ve come from another career, becoming a teacher can take you back to your first day at school. It’s intense, you feel exhausted and you can be sure the pupils won’t pat you on the back and tell you what a good job you’re doing. And you still have to pass your induction – the process which confirms your qualified teacher status with the General Teaching Council. “Nothing could have prepared me for the last four weeks,” says Kirstie, who began her first job at a primary school in Hampshire after qualifying from her PGCE with a mix of good and outstanding results. “I had one bad observation and it knocked me for six. I made myself go in the next day and teach as best as I could – it was like getting back on a horse. But there’s no let up. I love teaching, but I’ve worked every night this week and every weekend. I feel so responsible; I don’t want to let the children down.”

Know your rights

Kirstie, 41, a former events organiser, aims to flag up to her head that her tutor simply doesn’t have the time to give her the support she needs; not an uncommon problem according to James Williams, lecturer in education at Sussex University. “Time is an issue. Some tutors have been railroaded into it or simply don’t have the slack in their jobs to do it properly.” Take heart, he says, from the knowledge that the vast majority of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) pass their induction, usually within a year full time. But know your entitlements along the way, advises Williams. “I’m astonished how many people don’t read the statutory guidance (on the website of the Training and Development Agency).” While most schools know their responsibilities to teachers during their induction – a tutor to advise and support, a ten percent reduced time-table on top of planning and preparation time, and regular observations - a few “rogue schools” will try and cut corners, says Williams. Sometimes the tutoring isn’t up to scratch, meetings get cancelled and observations overlooked. In a few cases, schools might shirk embarking upon the induction programme at all if the NQT is on a part time contract. “Remember, if your contract runs for a full term, part-time or not, you should be placed on an induction,” says Williams. While there’s now no time limit to beginning induction or completing it, career advisors recommend finishing the process as soon as possible. Part time teachers can calculate induction timings using the calculator on the TDA’s website. Meeting the core standards set out by the TDA is relatively unproblematic, says Williams. If you’ve passed your PGCE, you will by and large already be achieving these professional benchmarks. There are a couple of standards you won’t be able to meet until you are an employee rather than a trainee – being aware of local

arrangements to do with child safety for instance as part of “working within the law and framework”, or developing working relationships with colleagues as part of “developing professional and constructive relationships”. It helps to remember that amid the fug of admin, details and procedures that is your first year, that good teaching depends on good relationships, and building these should be a priority, says Elizabeth Holmes, author of “The Newly Qualified Teacher’s Handbook”. “Without relationships schools cannot thrive and you cannot teach,” she explains. “The better your relationship with your tutor, the more observant he or she will be of you, and the more you’ll be able to say.”

Early indications

If things do go wrong, you have several courses of action. “Most commonly NQTs fail because their teaching is consistently unsatisfactory,” says Williams, “but if you have been having routine assessments, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.” New teachers should be observed every six to eight weeks and any problems should be flagged up early during three formal reviews, normally term by term during fulltime induction. Ultimately, the local

authority makes the decision to confirm an NQT’s induction, acting on the advice of the head teacher – and it’s to them you appeal should you fail or falter during the process. Anyone who fails has an automatic right to appeal, and will probably receive a time extension to retry. If during the process you feel you’ve been treated unfairly – assessed wrongly, not received support from tutor or line manager, or been burdened with difficult pupils - shout early to your local authority, who will have a designated person who oversees teacher induction, says Williams. Schools have a duty to put in extra support and training to help a struggling NQT. “A wily (LA) official would make a random ‘quality control’ visit to the school in question, as they are entitled to as part of their job,” he says. “That very often resolves the situation as the school pulls its socks up.” While it’s very rare to fail induction, it’s far more common for teachers fresh to the profession to decide early on it isn’t for them. Around 16 per cent of teachers quit in their first three years, latest research shows. “As a trainee you are still under an umbrella. The leap to teacher is huge,” says Holmes. “You are expected to be this endless well of patience. It is emotionally and physically draining.” If you live alone or

in a flat share, as many young teachers do, you might not take care of your own wellbeing. “Maybe there’s no one to see you deteriorate and say ‘just don’t do any work tonight.’ Work will probably dominate your life in the first year. You need to do more than survive; it’s not just stress management, you must thrive. Nurture yourself; cook a good meal, take exercise, take time off.” One of the most common traps that ensnares NQTs is attempting to maintain the same level of planning and reflection achieved during the trainee year, which is frankly impossible, says Williams. “Accept you will have to cut the detail.” Eventually, short cuts become intuitive. “The quality of your teaching won’t necessarily suffer,” says Holmes. “It’s wrong to think your lessons are only good if you spend hours preparing. Not so – real magic can happen in the classrooms on the spur of the moment. But you won’t be great if you’re exhausted.” training and development agency The Newly Qualified Teacher’s Handbook by Elizabeth Holmes FAQs for NQTs by Elizabeth Holmes – induction checklist – support for teachers

It's wrong to think your lessons are only good if you spend hours preparing. Not so – real magic can happen on the spur of the moment


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09/03/2010 11:16:09

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foundations for teaching careers

power to change lives David Cameron has ignited a debate on what makes a good teacher as he mapped out his education plans By Sarah Jewell


avid Cameron recently raised the debate again around what makes a good teacher by saying that the Conservative Party, if they win the forthcoming election, will be “brazenly elitist” about the calibre of candidates entering the teaching profession and that only teachers with good degrees will be allowed in. This led to an outcry from people with third class degrees, but what actually makes a good teacher? Michael Morpurgo, the author, says, “It is aptitude, the ability to enthuse, to communicate, to motivate, that is far more important than whether a candidate has a first- or third-class degree. And with this ability must come a love of the subject he or she is teaching. It’s the one thing that reaches children, touches their hearts, awakens their intellect, when they see that a teacher really means it.”

Life enriching

For him, his most inspirational teacher was Edred Wright, director of music at the King’s School, Canterbury. “Mr Wright’s great gift was being able to inspire children who weren’t necessarily musically gifted – that’s what we should require of teachers in all subjects. With Mr Wright it was never about improving the reputation of the school, just his intense love of music. What that man taught me aged 14 has enriched my entire life.” Steve Mills is a teacher at William Ransom Primary School, Hitchin and winner of the 2009 BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School. He knows what it takes to be a good teacher and agrees that are some “cracking teachers out there with a third class degree and lousy teachers with a first”. He does think, however, that there is an “element of truth” in what Cameron says in that you have to be of reasonable intelligence to impart knowledge to pupils but, equally important, he thinks, is “emotional intelligence – the ability to empathise, to think quickly and to respond in an appropriate way to situations and stresses that you find yourself under.” As the philosopher Carl Jung said, “one looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for

the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Having “human feelings” is essential but good teachers also need to have patience, optimism, understanding, compassion, enthusiasm, motivation, tolerance, organisational skills and a dedication to excellence. Good teachers want the best from their students and they encourage the sharing of ideas and offer incentives to get students to think outside the box. They want students to learn and be able to apply what they have learnt, not just be able to pass tests. As Steve Mills says, “every lesson is important – I teach a mixed class of years 5 and 6 and I have them for two years so I have to make sure that everything I do will improve their understanding and help them learn.” Giving 110 per cent Elaine Loughran is a special needs teacher at St Josephs Primary School, Antrim and winner of the 2009 Teaching Awards

Special Needs Teacher of the Year. She agrees that good teachers want to give “110 per cent to their job and to do the best for their children”. Many teachers, she says, spend hours at home working and checking things and finding resources and they will go to “extraordinary lengths” to engage a child. They realise that achievement isn’t just a good grade on a test, but a feeling of accomplishment with mastering a subject and they are willing to work with a student for that feeling. Robert Peston, the BBC business editor, went to a north London comprehensive in the 1970s and says he was inspired by his teachers, Ruby Galili who taught history and Peter Hudgell who was head of English: “I have no idea what qualifications they had, but they loved their respective subjects, knew tonnes about them, and were brilliant at communicating their learning and their enthusiasm.” As well as being passionate about their subject, good teachers need to be well

prepared and Elaine Loughran says she would advise any newly qualified teacher to be as organised as possible. “Preparation is key”, she says, “and good classroom management – the children have to understand that they are valued, respected and that they are safe”. Another good strategy for NQTs, she says, is to take advice from other teachers. Steve Mills supports this, “listen carefully”, he says, “to what other teachers are saying and take advice from your mentor”. So what makes all the hard work and extra effort worthwhile to award-winning teachers like Steve Mills and Elaine Loughran? They both say it is the satisfaction and joy they get from seeing their pupils succeed. As Steve Mills says, “it can be anything from a little lightbulb moment in an individual to national recognition of the school’s sports teams – but as long as my pupils continue to enjoy and achieve because of what I’m doing I will continue to do this job.”

Coping with the first years By Lucy Busutill


ll PGCE students have heard the horror stories about NQTs working 12 hour days, forgetting their families and friends and battling classroom rebellion. The rumours are true – in your first year of teaching, you either sink or swim. But the reward for those who float is the most rewarding career in the world – as these three established teachers explain.

At first I prepared 10 times too much for lessons – I just didn't realise the range of abilities in my classes

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Jennie Purkis

Primary school teacher Jennie Purkis (25) has been teaching year three (7-8 year olds) for three years. She told me: “I had a bit of a bad time in my first year because the established teachers weren’t supportive - I felt they were judging me. But nearly everyone else I know had a supportive school - so first year experiences vary. “When you graduate, your school expects you to do as many lessons as the established teachers. But there will be someone on your department ‘team’ to lesson plan with - you teach parallel lessons.” When do you stop being an NQT, I ask? “You have to meet certain targets on a set of forms as an NQT. Your mentor ticks boxes to send to the LEA. It didn’t help that my mentor was the deputy head! If you don’t pass it the first year, you do get

another chance – but not infinite chances. “Managing a class, you need to be confident and not back down. But I also learned that, as the adult, you have to learn to let things go over your head sometimes. You need patience!”

Maggie Carter

Maggie Carter (29), a secondary school French teacher, said: “I became a totally different person in my NQT year. I was never organised at uni – always a dreamer.

But when I started teaching, I started trying to anticipate everything that could possibly happen – carrying 30 pencils in my bag for the kids, but trying not to let them see! At first, I prepared 10 times too much for lessons – I just didn’t realise the range of abilities in my classes and couldn’t predict how long they’d take to do anything.”

Val Sudlow

Luckily, Val Sudlow (49), a special needs teacher for Northhampton county council, says

she loved her first year of teaching. “In my first year of teaching, when I was 24, I taught English at a rural secondary school. I planned for several hours every evening and probably a full day at the weekends”, she says. “My husband – who is also a teacher and I made it a rule not to work past 10 a couple of nights a week and go to the pub over the road. We tried to make it before last orders! “The teachers in my department never implied that I couldn’t do the job. The rest of the staff treated me like another member of staff – I don’t think they made allowances for new staff. But that was good – I didn’t want attention drawn to me. “I’m sure I made hundreds of mistakes in discipline! I think I came across as confident, but I shouted too much. I once took a boy to the head of year because of his behaviour and he was caned. I was horrified - I never did it again. Schools were very different then, you see. “Once, I was teaching a sixth form group A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow. I hadn’t prepared the lesson - so I just read aloud. But then the story got raunchy – and I had to go on reading, getting very red in the face, with no idea where it was going! Finally I stopped and told the class to read silently. There was a bit of muttering about my obvious embarrassment. I learned my lesson! Never read anything unseen to a class!”

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interview success


o get to the interview, candidates already need to have demonstrated their right to be there: their qualifications and how they are presented are important and, if they’re right, will get them onto a shortlist. Remember that as you arrive: the panel already think positively about you. Our interviews usually last about 25 minutes. We ask about six questions. What I’m mostly looking for, although it sounds cliché, are people who can communicate a real passion for the job and a bit of realism. Teaching can be a tough grind, and quite exhausting, so I need people who are resilient, and who are prepared to go on learning for a long time. We know new teachers aren’t going to arrive with all the answers. We’re looking for people who are able to be thoughtful about the experiences they’ve had on their training and what they’ve learnt. For example, we tend to ask about a lesson or a series of lessons that they’ve taught, what they were seeking to achieve and how they’d evaluate the processes and outcomes. I’m looking for reflective practitioners, and one of the ways you can demonstrate that in an interview is by talking about things you’ve done that didn’t go perfectly and looking at why. We also observe candidates teaching a lesson at our school and talk to them about how they feel it went. You can tell quite quickly from that whether they’re still focused on managing behaviour. Really strong candidates will also evaluate the teaching and learning. If a lesson doesn’t go brilliantly, show that you know what went wrong and what you could have done differently. We always give candidates some data about classes too, and I think that’s quite difficult for those straight out of training. An experienced teacher ought

Rosemary Leeke, the head teacher at South Camden Community School, tells us what she looks for in an NQT to be able to read data for a class and identify who’s got special educational needs, who the gifted and talented students are, and so on. But it’s quite a tall order to ask new teachers to tailor teaching towards them in an interview situation. I wouldn't necessarily expect that. But it is interesting to see what the candidates do with the information and how they use that to show that they understand the range of learning needs in any given classroom. One of the things that is really quite important at interview is how candidates talk about the old faithful questions that will come up time and again – such as equal opportunities and safeguarding. We don’t necessarily ask a specific question on either of these issues, but we would expect candidates to show their importance in their general answers. So someone might talk about choosing teaching materials to reflect the diversity of the class, or they might talk about equal opportunities for those with learning needs, for example. Think about the questions that aren’t being asked as well as those that are. Listen carefully, and look for


Produced by The Design Studio Ref: 3897 October 2009

time for children

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opportunities to show off your skills and ideas. At any interview, you will be asked ‘why this school?’ There’s a lot of information available these days, so candidates will be exposed if they haven’t done their research. Look at the school website and Ofsted reports and tailor your answers accordingly, regardless of your subject area. We have an open morning every Wednesday, so people who are thinking of applying for jobs can come and look around. It’s a good idea to do that, if you can. We’re an arts college, for example, and the amount of people who come for interview and make absolutely no reference to that is quite surprising. Is that the type of school you want to work at? Think about why and tell the interviewers. If it’s a girls’ school, are you passionately committed to girls education and why? If it’s a language college, demonstrate your commitment to languages and understanding of the benefits of a multilingual environment. The type of school it is will affect its priorities. I’m looking for someone who’s really committed to their job and wants to

NQT Talent Pool Greenwich Children’s Service is looking to recruit exceptional teachers who can inspire learning and encourage our pupils from a diverse range of backgrounds to reach their maximum potential. Greenwich is a fantastic place in which to begin your career. What do we offer Newly Qualified Teachers? s"DFOUSBMJTFEJOEVDUJPO programme covering a wide range of topics to support Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) s4VQQPSUGSPNPVSQSJNBSZBOE secondary teams of advisors s"SFTJEFOUJBM/25DPOGFSFODF s1SFQBSBUJPOGPSZPVSOEBOE 3rd years of your career and beyond s*OOFS-POEPOQBZTDBMF s"OENVDINPSFx We run a recruitment programme for both primary and secondary NQTs because our schools value the enthusiasm, vitality and fresh ideas that NQTs bring. Each academic year, Greenwich schools recruit around 100 primary and 100 secondary NQTs. To be one of them please apply online at: CFGPSFTU.BZ

Email: school-workforce@ Tel: 020 8331 3164

engage with young people. In terms of experiences, for those straight out of training, that isn’t the most crucial factor – but it’s important for every candidate to draw on and talk about the experience they do have, whether that’s as a TA or in youth work, or just their memories of school life. Draw on whatever teaching and learning experience you have. I also think that having a sense of humour is a real plus point. Cracking jokes in the interview isn’t necessarily the way to get the job – but showing that you’re a balanced and rounded person who won’t take things too seriously inspires confidence. Being good with people and understanding what young people are like is crucial. A very sage piece of advice is not to overdo it when it comes to asking questions yourself. Every interview will end with an opportunity to ask questions – but candidates who pull out a notebook and start wading through eight questions have usually lost you by the fourth. That’s because they probably would have had the opportunity to get the answers to some of those by doing their research and using their eyes and ears during the day of the interview. Two questions are fair enough – beyond that you might push the panel’s tolerance. Think of questions you couldn’t have found out otherwise – such as the training and support offered to NQTs, or whether you will have a tutor group. And if all your questions have been answered during the interview, that’s fine – just say so. Finally: turn up looking the part. Ask what the dress code in the school is – some insist on suits, others are less formal – but always look professional, confident and appropriate, and make sure you’re comfortable. From the moment you walk into reception, you are being assessed.

My experience with Synarbor Education has been both friendly and professional and I felt at ease throughout my interview. I left with a greater sense of optimism about my career path. Due to the commitment Supply Teaching makes to its teachers, I found that opportunities presented themselves very quickly, within two days Synarbor had approached me about two jobs and had an interview lined up for Monday after contacting me over a weekend. I got the job and feel very excited about beginning my new post and a lot more positive about my work situation. I cannot recommend Synarbor enough for anyone thinking about looking for work in teaching, from the very start I have been treated very well, kept informed at each point and I really feel that they have supported me at a turning point in my career and I am very grateful to have found them. Karen Rice – 9/2/2010

Kick-start your teaching career with Synarbor Education Synarbor Education places hundreds of teaching staff across the UK and overseas throughout the calendar year. Contact us today for day-to-day, short term, long term or permanent placements. With our national network of regional branches, our aim is to guarantee to find you the perfect job, whilst providing continuous support and career advice. Many of our consultants are ex-teachers so they understand the exact process you have to go through when starting your teaching career, both practically and emotionally. Your first year will be both rewarding and challenging and Synarbor Education will be there to help you every step of the way. Register with us today for your first teaching job and to benefit from our exclusive benefits.

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foundations for teaching careers

climb up the career l How can teachers develop their careers? We look at professional development and how it can start from your very first day at the head of the classroom By Jessica Moore


NQTs should be proactive and go into schools on the ball and clear about what they want to achieve

rofessional development is scaling the ladder of priorities in many sectors, and notably so in teaching. “It is our driving mantra”, says Jeff Cull, Head of NQT Induction at the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). “Professional development for teachers is crucial if we are to get the best out of our students”. To enable such development, every new teacher is supported through their first year at the head of the class. NQTs have an induction tutor and the Career Entry Development Profile process, which is a structured support process to facilitate reflective conversations and development opportunities. This is introduced towards the end of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and continues when you get your first job in a school. Some schools also offer further sources of support, such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) leaders, and, in secondary schools, advisers in specific subject areas. With all this available from the word go, it’s important to think about your career aspirations before you start your first teaching post. “NQTs should be proactive and go into schools on-the-ball and clear about what they want to achieve,” says Cull. “Identify the areas in which you would like extra training and talk to your induction tutor. Your professional development should be personalised and ongoing – and it

should start from your first day in the classroom.” Rosemary Leeke is the head teacher of a secondary community school in London. “We run a programme of meetings for NQTs to help them reach QTS standard”, she says. “Within boroughs, what’s on offer

varies greatly – but NQTs ought to expect, and to look out for, a school that will offer them quite targeted professional development, and opportunities to access external training as well. Don’t be afraid to ask about professional development right from the start of your career.” That said –

“don’t push it!” warns Leeke. “If you’re half way through your MA and want time off to finish it in your NQT year, you are being unrealistic about how hard you’ll have to work and how exhausting your first year of teaching will be.” Common professional development

Harnessing the power of social By Helena Pozniak


hen secondary school English teacher Francis Gilbert got his students to write Facebook status updates for Gabriel Oak of Far From The Madding Crowd, he knew he was on to something. “It made them think how (Thomas) Hardy had framed and created the character, and how Oak saw himself – these were actually high level skills they were using.” Pupils wrote updates on paper; as in many schools, Facebook and other social media sites were blocked. Gilbert, author of “I’m A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here”, has already stuck his neck out to defend the use of social media in the classroom – last year he was derided by some colleagues when he revealed he’d asked pupils to text each other questions about the set texts they’d been studying – technically mobiles are banned in the classroom - peers then answered each others’ questions. Traditionalists were appalled at the apparent dumbing down of lessons, but Gilbert is unrepentant. “It really helped students understand how to present information and it’s very motivational. Social media is now so central to their lives – every one of my class is on it; they have to present themselves, so to actually reflect upon that is incredibly useful. It’s also a fantastic tool for assessment. You could tell at a glance whether they’d actually read the book.” Children need to be equipped with all the

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digital skills available, and this, argue some, means knowing how to blog, tweet and use social networks. Last year, a government review into primary school curriculum by Sir Jim Rose recommended children under 11 needed to develop an understanding of ways to communicate online. Whether social media is used as a motivational tool or to teach pupils how to be safe, present themselves and be aware of privacy, don’t just use it for the sake of it, says Gilbert, who’s currently mulling whether to use a webcam to teach George Orwell’s 1984. “Young teachers might be tempted to rush in, but you need to place it in a theoretical framework and look at the bigger picture.” There are hundreds of social media tools on the web, but blogs and wikis remain some of the most user-friendly for teachers. If you can send an email with an attachment, you can set up a blog, say the experts – has a beginners guide. Most obviously, blogs, sometimes part of school websites, can be used to showcase pupils’ work to a wider audience. Pupils are immediately engaged; “boys in particular come alive when in front of a computer,” says a primary school teacher. It’s the collaborative nature which appeals to pupils and teachers; blogs lend themselves to peer and teacher assessment as pages can be edited and added to by both teachers and students. When pupils know their work is published and being read by a wider audience – family and friends for example they raise their game. One primary school tracks the number and whereabouts of

visitors to its blog and displays hits on an online map of the world. “I just listened to the children pointing at the different countries. There was a buzz of excitement,” he says. In another primary school, a language teacher helped her students create their own avatar, voice comments in French and post them on their school blog – in so doing, children overcame their shyness and embarrassment at speaking a foreign language. With another class, she recorded students singing a song and shared it with a Spanish-speaking school – who sang back to them in English.

If, as an NQT, you find yourself overwhelmed by choice, plenty of advice is available about how best to apply technology in lessons. Teachers TV offers invaluable lesson plans and demonstrations of various technologies. Or try the website of Tom Barrett (, ICT subject leader and assistant head at a Nottinghamshire primary school. In his “Interesting Ways” section, teachers have contributed their own examples of collaborative technology in use – it’s only by browsing suggestions that the truly innovative nature of social media becomes apparent. Arranging a video conference or Skype conversation with authors is one out of hundreds of suggestions; allowing pupils to create a twitter account for a famous or historical figure is another. “Invite students to produce a tweet dialogue between two opposing characters such as King Harold and William the Conqueror,” suggests one teacher. While Twitter - a micro-blogging platform for swapping ideas and experiences in less than 140 characters – has been publicly scorned for its brevity, it’s versatile and immediate for kick-starting lessons. “The key is to know why you want it and what you will do,” says Gilbert. Barrett advises trainee teachers to begin building an online network of teachers and experts; follow their tweets and blogs which highlight new tools or good practice “It’s one of the most useful things you can do as a trainee for your professional development,” he says. In his “29 Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the classroom” he shares the wisdom of many

09/03/2010 11:48:25


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ladder Early riser l Start your induction year as you hope to continue. Build a solid foundation for future professional development, and make sure you give your career aspirations enough thought. l Be proactive. Explain your needs and priorities to your induction tutor. Ensure your professional development relates to those needs. l Identify other sources of support, such as a CPD leader, head of department, or specific subject adviser. l Keep an eye on your induction year goals and requirements. Link your early professional development with core standards that underpin the induction and assessment process. l Be realistic about how busy your induction year will be. This is the time to consolidate your knowledge and increase your confidence as a teacher. Don’t seek to take on extra roles and responsibilities too soon. l Look at the CPD database on the TDA’s website, which enables teacher to find opportunities in their local area (

priorities for NQTs include improving their behaviour management skills, creating good relationships with parents, and shadowing more experienced teachers. “This training might be provided by the local authority, or within schools�, says Cull. But avoid taking on extra responsibility too early: “The

induction year is a pass or fail year during which NQTs have to meet certain standards. Focus on becoming a confident teacher and consolidating your learning from your ITT.â€? Leeke’s and Cull’s messages are backed up by Lisa Savage, a maths teacher at a Bristol girls school. She spent her induction year at a large comprehensive in north-west London. “At the beginning, I just needed to get used to the school environmentâ€?, she says. “I’ve always known who to go to for professional support, and I’ve had heads of department who were thinking about areas I might like to look into.â€? As her career progressed, Savage started to take on new roles and extend her remit. “By the end of my second year, I was starting to think about taking on extra responsibilities.â€? She became numeracy co-ordinator, then deputy head of maths, and is now pastoral head of 6th form. Each of these roles brought a salary increase of ÂŁ1,000 to ÂŁ4,000 per year respectively. “It is a lot of extra work. I couldn't have done it earlier in my career as I was already working very long hours, just to stay on top of my teaching, marking and planning.â€? A new professional development opportunity for NQTs is the Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL), which is rolling out this April in the north-west and in schools in challenging circumstances. “It’s a fully-funded, classroom-based programme that begins in the third term of the induction yearâ€?, says Cull. Dr David Spendlove, director of secondary PGCE at Manchester University, is writing a book evaluating the new course. “The average teacher gets a day a year on professional development, in terms of courses and trainingâ€?, says Spendlove. “They should get five, but the research shows that four of those tend to get swallowed up because there’s so much for them to do. It is very difficult and costly for teachers to get a day out of school for development. As the MTL is classroombased, it could be the answer to that.â€? It also demonstrates the TDA’s commitment to early professional development. “We’ve come an awfully long way in the last two or three yearsâ€?, says Cull. “The TDA has worked hard to strengthen the role of the CPD leader, and we’ve been working with schools to make sure that new teachers have professional development opportunities to enable them to achieve their students’ full potential, as well as their ownâ€?. The MBA for teachers, page 8

l media





Best of the web resources Setting up a blog l BBC guide to setting up a blog l – search for wide range of videos advising on use of blogs in schools Popular blog resources l Blogger – Google platform for creating your own blog l l l l l – allows users to post words or pictures and even set the blog up from scratch with an email l Google blog search – find different types of blogs in chosen categories l – site and blog of Saltash Community School in Cornwall

with deceptively simple suggestions. “Put up a tweet asking people (in your network) to give you their location,� recommends one teacher. “The class estimates the distance from school, then using Google Earth they can place mark where they are and find out distances.� As well as providing an immediate set of places and distances, students are interested in where and who the people are. Or, in another suggestion, pick a theme for a story – fairy tale, adventure etc, and tweet a story opener to your network, who continue the story in

TC 06-07.indd 7

Twitter and other social media l – a wiki enabling teachers find others in their subject area on Twitter l wisdom of teaching professionals shared by ICT leader and primary school assistant head Tom Barrett – see “29 ways to use Twitter� l Follow historical twitter users – Samuel Pepys has an account! l Use for light hearted look at how well-known figures might summarise their ideas as tweets. Students can become a fictional character and create conversations / updates around key events in the plot l informal teacher-run conference site

tweets. Students select the best replies and edit into a coherent story. As an NQT you will have to conform to school regulations regarding use of technology – mobiles will almost certainly be banned – be aware of safety procedures and gain permission for using the likes of twitter and YouTube. Employed appropriately, they present no risk, say supporters; better to teach pupils to be safe and responsible. “As a new teacher, you’ll be at the cutting edge – this is still new territory,� says Gilbert.

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09/03/2010 11:52:59

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foundations for teaching careers

‘THE MBA FOR TEACHERS’ learning and assessment, inclusion and leadership – it is a broad overview of what the whole teacher is about.” The aim is to open up opportunities for a generation of highly qualified teachers many of whom are very ambitious. The MTL will give teachers a better idea of what impacts on their work, but also, says Lowe, “it will be different for everyone”. In the third and final phase the NQT will identify the aspects of their teaching that teachers want to improve and develop through the use of enquiry and evidence. “It allows participants to choose one area and to take a sustained investigation into that area and then share that with other staff. It is a whole-school approach that will help improve teaching and learning”, says Lowe. Schools will not have to pay for the programme as the TDA has secured £30m of government funding for the first two years of the MTL and it is expected that, in time, all teachers will be able to take it. All fees for the MTL are paid by the government and schools are to be given £6,800 per participant to help them manage the training costs. The TDA estimates that about 4,000-5,000 NQTs will enrol for the MTL in the first year of the programme. Fifty-six higher education institutions have already developed accredited MTLs and are enrolling students, each master’s degree differing slightly to reflect educational priorities and the input of schools within their region. It is an exciting programme that will change the face of CPD and as Michelle Lowe says, “the hope is that it will become a national entitlement for all teachers – irrespective of what stage they are at, every teacher should have high-quality, school-based professional development and if we can make this part of what teachers do then we will be taking school improvement forward.”

The new master's degree in teaching and learning aims to raise the status of teachers By Sarah Jewell


ewly qualified teachers who are keen to enhance their careers and classroom management skills can enrol for the new, government-funded, master’s degree in teaching and learning. Launched last April by the training and development agency for schools (TDA), the MTL is available to NQTs who took up their jobs in September 2009 in schools in the north-west and also NQTs in schools across the country facing challenging circumstances. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, says about the master’s degree: “Our aim is that every teacher over time should have the new MTL. It will raise the status of teachers and ensure that they get the recognition that they deserve.” The new programme aims to raise standards in schools and offers real opportunities to improve the current ad hoc nature of professional development in schools. It reflects the collaboration and discussions that have taken place between the TDA, headteachers, local authorities, university departments of education and teaching unions. The MTL grew out of the recommendations of the 2007 McKinsey report, How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come out on Top, co-authored by Sir Michael Barber head of the consultancy’s global education practice and Graham Holley, chief executive of the TDA, hope that the MTL will become “the MBA for teachers”. Michelle Lowe is head of post-graduate professional development (education) at Staffordshire University and says that the MTL “has been a long time coming”. She

was involved in initial consultations led by and build up their career in teaching. the TDA about content of the degree in the It is delivered in three phases that Lowe West Midlands region and says, “it’s a highly describes as “developing; broadening and personalized and flexible programme, embedding; and deepening”. In the first designed for all teachers, irrespective of phase NQTs are asked to self-evaluate their where they are in their careers and whether teaching skills using a range of diagnostic they are in primary or secondary schools.” tools. As Lowe explains, “teachers have to It is a classroom-based programme, but analyse where they are in their teaching teachers will be supported by a tutor from practice and ask themselves, what do I do their school’s higher education partner and well? What do I need to develop further?” by a school-based coach – an experienced This will lead to them setting up their own teacher either from their own school or a professional development plan and school nearby. For NQTs the MTL is portfolio, linked to what happens in the rest designed to build on their induction year, of the MTL. As she says, “NQTs are giving them the chance to explore familiar supported through their own learning topics in more depth and providing ongoing journey” and the school-based coach will support. encourage NQTs to identify and develop The post-graduate degree course, which their teaching specialisms. is expected to take three years, is tailored to In phase two NQTs take what they have individual teaching commitments, learnt from their initial teacher training and professional interests and previous training develop this in greater depth. As Lowe and aims to develop the skills800190-200x140 that NQTs teaching flyer 3:16 pm Page 1 explains, “in the second21/11/07 phase there are need to make an impact in the classroom modules looking at subject knowledge,

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To live…

Uncertain where to teach? e at

- A gr y r t n e v Co a n d l i ve ! e p l ac e t o t


To teach… � Coventry LA is nationally known as a very good authority. � The LA has a reputation for providing high quality professional development and career support for its entire education staff. � The LA is a compact authority with no school more than 20 minutes drive from the city centre, and Elm Bank, the Corporate (Teacher) Training Centre.

�Coventry is a large, dynamic, fast-changing city set in the centre of England at the heart of the country’s motorway system, in the lovely county of Warwickshire. �Coventry is famous for it’s two cathedrals and it is a exciting multicultural city. �Coventry has a variety of housing both for purchase and rent, available throughout the City and the surrounding villages. �Coventry Airport is a Thomson Holidays hub and offers many low price flights to main land Europe and Mediterranean holiday resorts. �Birmingham International Airport is only 15 minutes drive away or 10 minutes by train. �Coventry has 2 Universities (Warwick and Coventry) �London is 1 hour away by train, which run every 30 minutes. �Coventry is the home to a wide range of sporting teams - Coventry City FC (Soccer), Coventry Blaze (Ice Hockey), Coventry Crusaders (Basketball), Coventry Bees (Speedway) and Coventry RFC (Rugby).


10 10:3 3:04

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Why not come and join us in Coventry? For further information or a general discussion please contact: Teacher’s Recruitment on

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09/03/2010 12:07:22

foundations for teaching careers

page 9

All NQTs dread the Ofsted inspection. Here's how to make sure you don't give a wooden performance

model teachers By Helena Pozniak


ne of the niggles that keeps newly qualified teachers awake at night is the knowledge that their school is due for an Ofsted inspection. Set up in 1992, Ofsted now operates slightly differently from the old days when it earned a severe, uncompromising reputation. Ofsted inspectors now focus on previous areas of weakness and monitor a school’s self evaluation – which means it’s possible to predict the focus of an inspection. Ofsted draws up a report classing each institution as outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate, and schools must respond setting out how they will improve on their results. “An inspection is certainly not something to dread,” says Elizabeth Holmes, author of School Inspection: A Teacher’s Guide to Preparing, Surviving and Evaluating Ofsted Inspection. “Just think of it as a useful exercise, you will get the experience sooner rather than later.” On the bright side: as an NQT you are no stranger to being observed. You’re probably more used to having your classroom performance analysed than are most senior staff members. While your lessons may well be watched and evaluated,

inspectors aren’t expecting to see a teacher with years of experience behind them. And while you can’t expect kid gloves – NQTs are in theory treated as any other teacher inspectors may be more interested in how you are being supported by your school during your induction. “But apart from that, treat it as business as usual,” says Holmes. That said, there are several ways in which as an NQT you could prepare. Take a look at the Ofsted website ( and familiarise yourself with the language and procedures. While there’s no such thing as a “standard” inspection, the school should normally receive one or two days notice and inspections run up to two days. Schools with a previously good or outstanding report can expect an inspection every five years, while those with a previous “satisfactory” will be inspected every three years. However Ofsted may visit a previously poorly performing school without notice. Odds of being observed depend on the size of the school. Inspectors are there to check whether the school management has made the right call in its self-evaluation form (SEF) so may look at areas rated very high or low. So a classroom observation might concentrate on special needs provision, for example, rather than overall quality of teaching. In other words, they’re in your classroom, but you’re not under the

spotlight. New inspections introduced last September focus on more lesson observation and consultations with pupils and parents. “(Inspectors) don’t want to see a perfect teacher who’s safe and never done anything wrong. That person doesn’t exist,” says Holmes. “They want to see you constantly evaluating your practice – speaking to colleagues, trying new approaches. That’s part of your induction process anyway.” Demonstrate also, that you are able to put new theories and knowledge into practice. “Evidence is partly in the way you’ll talk about your job,” says Holmes. “Things such as ‘I’ve changed this because it became clear I could improve...’ all show you’ve got the mindset to become a great teacher. Good inspectors will initiate these conversations.” By keeping a professional learning journal, you’ll have an invaluable tool to back up your approach with ready-made evidence that you’re not standing still on the job. Try and spell out if you can the good practice you have embedded in your lessons – it may be obvious to you - but not to an inspector who may attend your class for just half an hour. Fortunately, many of the attributes of good teaching - planning, pace, challenge, differentiation, and assessment will automatically be prominent in the mindset of a well-trained NQT.

Your first step to a first class career

Newly Qualified Teachers Opportunities available now

Realistically when a school knows an inspection looms, there will be a sense of anxiety, if not panic. Head teachers will be busy making last-minute touches to evaluation forms before they are locked as part of the process, and probably won’t have time to address your own concerns. But if your line manager isn’t your head teacher, you could well approach him or her with your worries. Many teachers blame Ofsted inspections for depleting their self-confidence. NQTs are constantly evaluated and assessed during their induction year in order to improve. During the first year, criticism at the wrong time – when you are exhausted or anxious – can seem like a slap in the face and could push you – wrongly - into self-doubt that you’re a “proper” teacher at all. There’s no easy solution to this, but sharing angst with colleagues can be hugely therapeutic. In fact a recent independent survey found that nearly 90 per cent of teachers think inspections help set new priorities for the future, while 84 per cent think it’s important their lessons are observed by inspectors. “If we want to be teachers,” says Holmes, a teacher herself, “we have to be comfortable with the idea of inspection whether you like it or not. If you go into it with the goal of it being a great experience, and invaluable professional development, it could ultimately be a positive experience.”

Apply Immediately Telephone: 01296 382765 email:

Just think of it as a useful exercise, you will get the experience sooner rather than later

Positively welcoming applications from all parts of the community

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foundations for teaching careers

Prepare to Meet the parents Parents’ evenings can be a minefield as they test your stamina, memory and interpersonal skills. Learn how to get survive them

By Helena Pozniak


s a young school teacher, Sarah took drastic action at one of her first parents’ evenings in a London primary. “We’d had ongoing issues with the pupil – his parents said he was being bullied. They were a known difficult family – very aggressive. I heard them coming from the other end of the school and I knew I couldn’t face them, so I jumped out the window and got away. I was inexperienced and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately my head backed me up.” While it’s not unheard of to have a police presence in school for potentially difficult encounters with parents, that’s relatively rare. But even the more benign parents’ evenings may still present a rigorous test of your stamina, memory and interpersonal skills. As a newly qualified teacher (NQT), you might feel you’re treading on eggshells. Parents might not respect your authority as a newcomer; you may have to remember the names – and abilities – of possibly more than 250 children, appear confident when you’re quaking inside, fend off ambitious parents and word your criticism with elaborate creativity. In a recent survey of primary school parents, 55 per cent of them said parents evenings didn’t really tell them how their child was progressing. “I sat through one (consultation) and listened to how much my son enjoyed the latest school trip,” says one mother of a seven year old boy. “I didn’t have the heart to tell the teacher he never went on it.” As a trainee, you probably won’t have been exposed to parent-teacher consultations, but experts advise shadowing an experienced teacher if at all possible before you’re in the hot seat yourself. Of course, there shouldn’t be any surprises during the evening; any serious problems should have been broached with parents already. “Parents’ evenings are a crucial way for teachers and parents to interact and be constructive, as well as open,

about the progress – or lack of progress – a child is making,” says the Training and Development Agency. Yes in an ideal world, but often time limit – usually between five and 10 minutes - and the focus on targets can leave parents baffled by educational jargon and feeling that they have no better idea how their child is doing. “I think parents want to hear how their child is getting on socially as well as academically,” says primary school teacher Rachel Swales. “Friendship is such an important issue; they want to know whether their child is thriving.” One of the most useful approaches is to put yourself in the parents’ shoes, says Caroline Wainwright, a modern languages teacher at a Hampshire sixth form college. “Since becoming a parent myself, I behave in a very different way. I didn’t appreciate how traumatic it might be for parents, so I try and draw out the positive.” All teachers advise finding something good to say about each pupil, no matter how hard you have to try. An obvious opener is to ask the parent how they think the child is progressing. “Then feed your comments into their opinions,” advises Swales. How honest you are depends on your style and judgement. Some parents welcome the information as a wake-up call for the child. If you anticipate a difficult appointment, alert senior management and wherever possible, bring in back-up – a head of department or a special needs coordinator and arm yourself with facts. “I had one student,” Wainwright remembers, “who’d simply not done his work but had duped his mum. She at first accused us of losing his coursework and it took me and another teacher to convince her he was pulling the wool over his eyes.” Some teachers report pressure to raise grade predictions, particularly for A-level students – resist this at all costs. “Remember however difficult you find the child, they’re someone’s be mindful of that,” says Vicky Eggleston, a former secondary pastoral head who tutors children as part of the Education Inclusion Service. “Some parents just want to unload and don’t want advice. They just need you to understand.”

Gauge your comments according to your audience. Some parents won’t be aware of educational language, and parents often complain any real information is disguised behind a welter of jargon. As an NQT your first parents’ evening will come around when you’ve barely got your feet under the desk – October is a common timing. It helps to read the previous summer reports, especially of those pupils you find difficult. “You might just have had a personality clash,” says Swales. “Be honest but don’t wade in with criticism – they might have had a great previous year.” On some occasions reports may have been so carefully worded as to gloss over problems, and any criticism may come as a real surprise.

Whether you leave books out for perusal or have specific examples in front of you is a matter of preference, but backing up comments with proof works well. Confidence as an NQT is everything – you have to appear up to speed, however you feel. “I go over and greet the parents as they come in, shake their hands and instantly you look driven and in control,” says Swales. Keeping time – and squeezing in a cup of tea – is possibly the most challenging task of the evening. “I keep a clock very obviously in front of me,” says Peter Roberts, a deputy head at a primary school in Southampton, “and keep it to eight minutes, which allows for chitchat and greetings either side. Anything else, please make another appointment.”

A Chance to learn about y By Lucy Busuttil


econdary school teacher Lizzie Smith and primary school teacher Maria Crilly share the stories of their first parents’ evenings with Teaching Careers. Lizzie Smith (54), a secondary school English teacher, said: “On my first ever parent’s evening, I made the most dreadful mistake. I remember, before the night started, just wanting to reassure all the parents that their kids were doing OK. “I told the parents of one year nine pupil, who stuck out as very slow, that he was doing fine. So he chose my subject for GCSE! All the other teachers told it like it was, and covered their backs, so they got the good kids doing their subject. But I misled these parents. Their son was totally out of his depth doing English the next year, and it was my fault.

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“And the stupid thing is, the parents you really want to see – of the problem children – don’t come! You worry about how they’ll react when you tell them their children won’t behave, then it never happens. There’s about a 70 per cent turn-out rate – you can predict who’ll come, mainly the bright parents’ kids. They just sit there basking in praise, which is a waste of everyone’s time, really.” So what are parents’ evening for then? “It’s very important – because when you meet the parents, you understand the kids. Kids are 90 per cent like their parents, and you instantly see the influence. It makes you a much better teacher, because you suddenly know who you’re teaching. You find out who the kids really are. Like, the quiet ones are loud at home and the noisy ones are quiet at home – because, I think, everyone has to let off steam somewhere! “But I remember my first evening being so tiring – having to talk to 30 parents after

teaching all day! In my school, we did an evening for parents of each year group – so if I had two classes of that age, it was ridiculous! “And I remember all the experienced teachers wrapping up early, leaving the NQTs still talking to parents. We weren’t yet as jaded! Or maybe we weren’t as professional - depending on how you put it. Later, when I went to parents’ evenings with my kids’ teachers, it seemed like the ‘nice teachers’ were the ones who let the clock overrun when you talked to them.” Maria Crilly (25) has taught year five (9-10 year olds) in a Surrey primary school for two years. She said: “The worst parents are the control freaks - they think they know everything and don’t let their kids just be children. One boy I taught last year had to do homework everyday set by his mum.” What are primary school parents’ evenings like? “At my school, we work all day then do

parent’s evening until 6:30 two days in a row. By the end, I can’t talk to anyone! Then there’s an optional third evening in summer - after reports are given out – for parents who want a chat. And we set targets in the first term - when we don’t even know the children. In my first year, I definitely felt I was making them up! “I was nervous, but I told myself no one knew more about these children at school than me. Telling parents their children are naughty isn’t usually so bad - they want to sort it most of the time. My head is really good – so I can get him to talk to any parents. “Teaching’s not so much a career- it’s a vocation. My 30 students are part of my life – we do everything together. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world! I love my students, and when I see them doing well - like last year at an inter-school drama competition – I’m so proud I can’t believe it.”

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foundations for teaching careers

page 11

Unions offer protection and advice for teachers

By Sarah Jewell


Top tips for parents’ evenings l Stand up to greet and say goodbye to parents – or walk to meet them as they come in l If you teach many pupils, keep a desk plan with key notes about each child so you will remember them out of context – useful for consultations early in the academic year l Ask the parent for tips on how best to handle their child – what motivates him or her l Try asking the parents first how they think their child is doing (or the pupil him or herself) – how they act at home, how they approach homework, then feed your comments into theirs

l Make suggestions where appropriate about how parents can help – refer them to online resources or provide printouts l If the parents are divorced, make sure you know whether you are speaking to a parent or step parent l If you’re asked something you can’t answer, don’t make it up. Say you will find out or refer them to your head of department l Keep pupils’ work marked and use it during the meeting to back up your points if appropriate l Project confidence, dress professionally, sound like you care

t your pupils

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s a newly qualified teacher or a PGCE student you may be wondering whether to join a teaching union and if so, which one? There are many unions to choose from but they will all offer you the benefit of guidance and advice on your professional career, insurance protection, and legal support. Sian Bassett is Principal Officer of membership at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and she says the importance of joining a union is all about “protection in the workplace and professional advice - we have paid solicitors in every office to give information”. Most of the unions offer financial incentives and reduced payments to trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers. The NUT is the largest union for qualified teachers in primary and secondary education and has about 300,000 members. It is both a professional association and a trade union. It has a strong history of campaigning on educational issues and working conditions for its members and among its current policies are fair pay for teachers, the removal of excessive workload and a better work-life balance, and the abolition of national curriculum tests. Bassett thinks that being a member of a union gives “invaluable support” to teachers. Teachers are under constant pressure in the work environment, she says, and the opportunity to have someone to talk to is really important. If a teacher has a problem they can’t resolve then they need to get advice and help and, as she says, “teachers can feel very isolated in their classrooms”. Nasuwt – the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers is the largest teachers’ union in the UK that covers “all educational professionals who have a contract which requires them to teach, lecture or instruct including initial teacher training students” - in other words it also includes all those who have a teaching job but are not qualified teachers. This Trades Union Congress-affiliated union provides an array of services including high quality support, advice and representation for members; legal representation; national and regional training programmes and professional seminars and conferences. Nasuwt’s philosophy is “putting teachers first” and it aims to serve the best interests of teachers. It is politically independent but it is committed to social partnership with government in order to influence education policy. Nasuwt “strongly believes that no teacher or Initial Teacher Training (ITT) student should enter the classroom without the essential legal and professional cover that the Nasuwt provides”. The union campaigns on working conditions and excessive workloads of teachers and in particular it has demanded a sensible limit on teachers’ working hours, a reduction in excessive workload and bureaucracy and pay and “conditions which enhance the professional status of teachers and headteachers and recognise their roles as highly skilled professionals”. Nasuwt has a number of subscription discounts for newly qualified teachers including teachers in their last year of studying and also teachers in their first and second years of teaching. Recently qualified teachers and students in their final year who either join as full members or convert their student membership to full membership can benefit from free Nasuwt membership for the calendar year in which they qualify. Then, if they pay their future membership subscriptions by direct debit, they will

continue to receive free membership for the whole of the following calendar year. Membership subscription for the subsequent year would be 50 per cent of the full membership rate. ATL – the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; the education union - uses the experiences of its members to influence education policy across the UK. By sitting around the table with government and employers, it aims to “make a positive impact on pay, conditions and career development”. ATL currently represents 160,000 members across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and in order to represent its members in the wider trade union movement, became affiliated to the TUC in 1999. Its members are teachers, supply teachers, heads, lecturers, managers and support staff in maintained and independent sector schools and colleges. ATL has established a partnership with the Association of College Management (ACM) to provide benefits to school and college leaders and managers. Called the Association of Managers in Education (AMiE), members of both unions can access AMiE’s bespoke services for leaders. The union’s education and training programme has a wide range of courses designed to support professional and personal development, “with training available for every role and sector from support staff to teacher, lecturer or leader working in schools and colleges”. For students and newly qualified members, the ATL has a newsletter called new2teaching, which is packed with information, tips and advice. Membership of ATL is free for the first year of teaching and the second year is half price. If you qualified/will qualify to teach in 2010 and take up your first teaching or lecturing post during 2010, you are entitled to free membership of ATL for 12 months. Free membership starts when you take up your first post, including supply or agency work, and is only available to members who join by direct debit. For the following year, you will only have to pay half the standard rate. Naht - the National Association of Head Teachers – has a membership of over 28,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is the association for all school leaders. Members hold leadership positions in early years; primary; special and secondary schools; independent schools; sixth form and FE colleges; outdoor education centres; pupil referral units, social services establishments and other educational settings. Voice – the union for education professionals – is an independent trade union that speaks up for everyone, from teachers, FE and HE lecturers and nursery nurses, to head teachers and school support staff, including teaching assistants, support staff, technicians and administrators. UCU – the University and College Union is the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in FE and HE throughout the UK. EIS – the Educational Institute of Scotland is the biggest teaching union in Scotland. It represents professionals in nursery, primary, special and secondary education, as well as FE and HE.   Nasuwt: NUT: ATL: Naht: UCU: EIS:

09/03/2010 13:28:19

0911080 NASUWT Advert:Layout 1 26/11/2009 11:23 Page 1

NASUWT The Teachers’ Union

Qualifying in 2010?

The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, offers unrivalled support to new teachers from finding their first post to preparing to enter the classroom on the first day of school.

Finding Your First Teaching Post Publication is an invaluable FREE guide crammed with practical advice to assist you in locating, applying for and attending interviews for your first teaching post.

Preparing for Your First Teaching Post Seminar

is a popular one-day seminar that is offered FREE to all NASUWT NQT members prior to them taking up their first teaching post.

Maintaining pupil discipline in the classroom environment is the focus of the seminar but it also covers other topics, including: • your rights as a newly qualified teacher; • contractual issues and pay; • your first day in the classroom; • recent developments in education. “Provided practical ideas for the classroom.” Glasgow

“Very engaging, lots of practical advice and anecdotes. Will definitely use in first post.” Cardiff

“Positive behaviour management. Practical, helpful, insightful, inspiring.” Belfast

The seminar takes place during August at locations throughout the UK. Previous attendees have rated the seminar highly.

“It was great to meet other NQTs and chat about their hopes, fears and experiences.” Birmingham

Early booking is recommended as places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

To receive your copy of the FREE NASUWT guide Finding Your First Teaching Post or to reserve your place on the FREE NQT seminar, contact the NASUWT Conferences and Events Team on Tel: 0121 453 6150 or e-mail

The best NQT offer in the UK FREE until 2012* ...If you see a better offer, we’ll beat it**

Join the NASUWT today. Quick and easy, no hassle. Tel: 0121 457 6211 or online: *All NQT members who agree to pay their future subscriptions by direct debit will receive FREE NASUWT membership until 31 December 2011, followed by a 50% reduction in 2012. ** The NASUWT will better any other teacher trade union NQT subscription offer by matching it and will include an extra month’s membership free of charge.

Supporting New Teachers

The largest teachers’ union in the UK TC 10-12.indd 12

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Teaching Careers, Spring 2010  
Teaching Careers, Spring 2010  

Magazine for PGCE students