Teacher trainer James Williams explains the ins and outs of the changes to the induction process

In September 2012, new statutory guidelines for induction will come into effect. These new guidelines and the new induction arrangements passed by parliament on April 20 this year, will affect all newly qualified teachers who have yet to complete induction and all NQTs starting induction this September.

The new arrangements maintain most of the current statutory provisions e.g. a reduced timetable, provision of an induction tutor or mentor to support the NQT as well as regular observation and progress reports. That said there are also some major differences which need to be highlighted.

The new guidance, which is considerably slimmer than the current document (26 pages versus 49) covers the key features of induction: from why we have induction; to a detailed section on the process of induction; special circumstances that could reduce the induction period; what happens in the event of unsatisfactory progress during induction and the appeals process for NQTs deemed to have failed induction. The final section outlines the roles and responsibilities of all involved in the induction process.

Key changes to the induction guidance

No more '16 month rule - The main change is the scrapping of the ’16 month rule’. This was a source of confusion and intense frustration for many. From September 1st 2012 all NQTs will have five years from the date of gaining QTS during which they can work on daily supply, that is, teaching, but not in a post where induction is mandatory. This will come as a relief to many thousands of NQTs who have fallen foul of the 16 month rule. This is a fixed time limit. There is no possibility of an extension of the five years.

Overseas induction - Another significant change is the ability to complete induction in some British schools overseas. Under the previous guidelines it was possible to serve induction in a small number of forces overseas schools, but from September 1 2012, induction can be served in a British School overseas, provided it's a member of a DfE accredited association and has had a satisfactory or better inspection within the last four years.

Overseas trained teachers - For overseas trained teachers from certain countries, there are now exemptions from the requirement to complete induction. If you have trained, qualified and met any additional conditions and you are regarded as a fully-qualified teacher in Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA then you will be exempt from induction, provided you are not the subject of any decision or proceedings that could restrict your eligibility to teach in that country.

Likewise, teachers who have been awarded QTLS by the Institute for Learning (IFL) and who are members of the IFL are also exempt from induction.

Expansion of where induction can be served - The previous guidelines did not allow induction to be served in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), from September 1 2012 a PRU can offer induction. Restrictions on some schools remain, for example a school which is in special measures cannot hire a NQT unless permission is given by Ofsted (NQTs on induction when a school goes into special measures will be allowed to complete induction). FE colleges may also offer induction, provided they have a satisfactory or better inspection rating and they can make arrangements for NQTs to spend at least 10 days (preferably 25) teaching in a school.

Independent schools can still offer induction, but the new guidelines state quite clearly that independent schools – which include academies and Free schools - are not legally obliged to offer induction and those with QTS are not obliged to complete induction in order to work in such institutions.

Appropriate bodies - Quality assurance of induction is carried out by the ‘appropriate body’ (AB). In many cases this was the Local Authority. A number of independent (private) schools used the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel (ISCTIP) as their appropriate body. Two categories of appropriate body have been added to the new guidance, teaching schools (though they cannot act as the appropriate body for themselves or any NQTs they train) and ‘an organisation determined for this purpose by the Secretary of State’, to date there are no details of what such an organisation may be.

What has stayed the same

As with the current guidelines, the minimum length of contract that requires a person to be placed on induction in a maintained school is one term, either full time or part time. As is currently the case, who the NQT is employed by is irrelevant, whether it is an agency or being employed directly by the school or the Local Authority, the NQT must be placed on induction.

For any NQT on induction, regardless of the type of school, there must be a 10% reduction in the teaching timetable. This is in addition to the statutory 10% PPA time. NQTs must also have the support of an induction tutor appointed by the Headteacher or Principal and that person must hold QTS.

As now, NQTs will be observed during their induction, but a crucial change here is that there is no longer a stated schedule of observation (currently NQTs must be observed within four weeks of starting induction and at least once in any six to eight week period). I would hope that the current schedule would be implemented as a matter of course as it seems sensible to carry out regular observation, but the new guidance simply states that an NQTs teaching ‘should be observed at intervals throughout their induction’. Feedback on any observation should be ‘prompt and constructive’.

Where problems arise and an NQT is assessed as not making satisfactory progress towards meeting the standards this should be identified as early as possible and, as should have happened up until now, there should be ‘no surprises’; that is, an NQT should not suddenly be told that there is a problem and the possibility of a fail right at the end or with no fair warning.

The decision on a pass or fail of induction still happens at the end of the third term. The decision rests with the appropriate body and not the headteacher, they make only a recommendation. The AB also has now the power to deem that induction has been passed if the school fails to keep proper records or if records have been lost. The new guidance also recommends that the original documentation is given directly to the NQT with copies going to the AB and held in the school for at least six years.

Causes for concern

There are some welcome developments in this new guidance, such as the new five year rule, but also some worrying aspects, such as the lack of guidance to schools on the type and frequency of observations of NQTs. The most intriguing aspect of the new guidelines is the emphasis on the fact that induction is not a legal requirement for teachers who wish to teach in academies and free schools. Given that an aim of this current administration is to make all schools academies you have to wonder, why have induction at all?

For more information visit the DfE's induction pages

James Williams is a lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex, School of Education and Social Work.

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